How Is a Transient Ischemic Attack Treated and What Is the Prognosis?
Treatment OptionsBecause there is no way to tell whether symptoms are caused by a transient ischemic attack or an acute stroke, assume that all stroke-like symptoms signal an emergency -- do not wait to see if they go away. A prompt evaluation is necessary to identify the cause of the transient ischemic attack and to determine appropriate therapy.
Depending on a patient's medical history and the results of a medical examination, the doctor may recommend drug therapy or surgery to reduce the risk of stroke in people who have had a transient ischemic attack. The use of antiplatelet medications, particularly aspirin, is a standard treatment for patients at risk for stroke. Doctors may prescribe anticoagulants, such as warfarin (Coumadin®) for people with atrial fibrillation (irregular beating of the heart).
(Click TIA Treatment for more information on these treatment options for a transient ischemic attack.)
Prognosis After a Transient Ischemic Attack
A transient ischemic attack is often a warning sign that a person is at risk for a serious and debilitating stroke. About one-third of people who have a transient ischemic attack will have an acute stroke some time in the future. Many strokes can be prevented by heeding the warning sign of a transient ischemic attack and treating underlying risk factors.
The most important treatable risk factors that are linked to a transient ischemic attack and stroke are:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia)
- Atrial fibrillation
- Other heart diseases
- Carotid artery disease
- Sleep apnea
- Heavy consumption of alcohol
- Drug abuse.
Medical help is available to reduce and eliminate these factors.
Lifestyle changes such as eating a balanced diet, maintaining healthy weight, exercising, and enrolling in smoking and alcohol cessation programs can also reduce these factors.
(Click TIA Prevention to learn more about preventing a transient ischemic attack. Click TIA Risk Factors to learn more about risk factors for a TIA that you can control along with those that you cannot control.)