Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Diagnosis of transient global amnesia rests on excluding more-serious conditions — stroke, seizure or head injury, for example — that can cause the same type of memory loss.

Physical exam

The process begins with a neurological exam, checking reflexes, muscle tone, muscle strength, sensory function, gait, posture, coordination and balance. The doctor may also ask questions to test thinking, judgment and memory.

Brain and imaging tests

The next step is to conduct tests that detect abnormalities in the brain's electrical activity and circulation. The most common of these tests are painless and take less than two hours each:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This technique uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed, cross-sectional images of the brain. The MRI machine can combine these slices to produce 3-D images that may be viewed from many different angles.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG). An EEG records the brain's electrical activity via electrodes attached to the scalp. People with epilepsy often have changes in their brain waves, even when they're not having a seizure.
  • Computerized tomography (CT). Using special X-ray equipment, your doctor obtains images from many different angles and joins them together to show cross-sectional images of the brain and skull. CT scans can reveal abnormalities in brain structure, including narrowed, overstretched or broken blood vessels and past strokes.
Jul. 18, 2014

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.