Neurologists Ask Doctors to Drop the Term TIA

Although transient ischemic strokes are often a precursor to full-blown stroke, many patients who experience a “mini-stoke” are relieved that their symptoms resolve quickly and may wait longer than they should before seeing a doctor.  Two neurologists, who recently published an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are calling for doctors and patients to stop using the term TIA (transient ischemic attack) and name the event what it really is – a minor ischemic stroke, hoping that more people will seek medical attention quickly, helping to prevent permanent brain damage or a major ischemic stroke. 

According to a recent New York Times report, following a ministroke or TIA, the risk for a subsequent and possibly more severe stroke is highest within the first 24 to 48 hours.  The brain can sustain injury from a TIA and to help prevent further damage, patients need to go to the emergency room immediately and not wait until the next day or a more convenient time. 

Successful treatment for ischemic stroke is time-sensitive.  Older adults who are at greater risk for stroke, and caregivers, should be aware that symptoms of a stroke are cause for immediate medical help.   The sudden appearance of symptoms such as weakness or numbness on one side of the body, loss of vision, loss of balance or coordination, or trouble with speaking or understanding language are signs of stroke. Even short periods of low blood flow to the brain can cause damage. 

By seeking immediate medical attention if you suspect you or a loved one has had a minor ischemic stroke, the attack can be properly evaluated and identified, and treatment offered to help prevent a subsequent stroke.   Although there are some risk factors for stroke that can’t be changed, including age, family history, or a prior TIA, there are many lifestyle factors that can be modified to lower the risk.  Stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol intake, controlling diabetes, and maintaining a healthy weight can all help prevent minor and major ischemic strokes. 

Learn more about TIA diagnosis and treatment by following this link to the Mayo Clinic website.