When it comes to a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, diagnosis can be a challenge because the symptoms may have already gone away by the time the patient has sought medical attention. Diagnosing a TIA usually involves a review of the patient's medical history and a physical exam (including a short neurological exam). If the healthcare provider still suspects a TIA, diagnosis then usually involves blood tests, CT scans, and other tests. To diagnose a TIA, a doctor usually needs to rule out other conditions that may cause similar symptoms, such as stroke or a brain tumor.
TIA Diagnosis: An Introduction
A transient ischemic attack (also known as a TIA or mini-stroke) is a condition that results from a temporary lack of blood flow to a specific part of the brain. The challenge with making a TIA diagnosis involves the length of time that symptoms occur. Because most TIA symptoms completely go away after several minutes (but may last for up to 24 hours), by the time a person seeks medical attention, their symptoms have often disappeared completely.
Still, as part of diagnosing a TIA the healthcare provider will normally ask a number of questions (such as those concerning the patient's medical history) and perform a physical exam. If the healthcare provider believes that a person has had a TIA, he or she may order additional tests to look for possible causes of a TIA and/or to rule out other conditions that can cause symptoms that mimic a TIA.
TIA Diagnosis: Medical History and Physical Exam
When a possible TIA patient arrives at a hospital, a healthcare professional will typically first ask the patient or a companion what happened and when the possible TIA symptoms began. The healthcare provider will also usually ask questions about TIA risk factors, such as any history of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure (hypertension), or diabetes.
The healthcare provider will then usually perform a physical exam, including a short neurological examination looking for TIA signs and symptoms.