Once your doctor has determined the cause of your transient ischemic attack, the goal of treatment is to correct the abnormality and prevent a stroke. Depending on the cause of your TIA, your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce the tendency for blood to clot or may recommend surgery or a balloon procedure (angioplasty).
Doctors use several medications to decrease the likelihood of a stroke after a transient ischemic attack. The medication selected depends on the location, cause, severity and type of TIA. Two frequently prescribed types of drugs are:
Anti-platelet drugs. These medications make your platelets, one of the circulating blood cell types, less likely to stick together. When blood vessels are injured, sticky platelets begin to form clots, a process completed by clotting proteins in blood plasma.
The most frequently used anti-platelet medication is aspirin. Aspirin is also the least expensive treatment with the fewest potential side effects. An alternative to aspirin is the anti-platelet drug clopidogrel (Plavix).
Your doctor may consider prescribing Aggrenox, a combination of low-dose aspirin and the anti-platelet drug dipyridamole, to reduce blood clotting. The way dipyridamole works is slightly different from aspirin.
Anticoagulants. These drugs include heparin and warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven). They affect clotting-system proteins instead of platelet function. Heparin is used for a short time and warfarin over a longer term.
These drugs require careful monitoring. If atrial fibrillation is present, your doctor may prescribe another type of anticoagulant, dabigatran (Pradaxa).
If you have a moderately or severely narrowed neck (carotid) artery, your doctor may suggest carotid endarterectomy (end-ahr-tur-EK-tuh-me). This preventive surgery clears carotid arteries of fatty deposits (atherosclerotic plaques) before another TIA or stroke can occur. An incision is made to open the artery, the plaques are removed, and the artery is closed.
In selected cases, a procedure called carotid angioplasty, or stenting, is an option. This procedure involves using a balloon-like device to open a clogged artery and placing a small wire tube (stent) into the artery to keep it open.
June 10, 2014
- TIA (Transient ischemic attack). American Stroke Association. http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/AboutStroke/TypesofStroke/TIA/TIA-Transient-Ischemic-Attack_UCM_310942_Article.jsp#. Accessed Dec. 9, 2013.
- Transient ischemic attack information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tia/tia.htm. Accessed Dec. 9, 2013.
- Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2014: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2014. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 9, 2013.
- Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 9, 2013.
- Furie KL, et al. Etiology and clinical manifestations of transient ischemic attack. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 9, 2013.
- Stroke risk factors. American Stroke Association. http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/AboutStroke/UnderstandingRisk/Understanding-Risk_UCM_308539_SubHomePage.jsp#. Accessed Dec. 12, 2013.
- Furie KL, et al. Secondary prevention of stroke: Risk factor reduction. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 9, 2013.
- Assessing your weight and health risk. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/lose_wt/risk.htm. Accessed Dec. 12, 2013.
- Furie KL, et al. Initial evaluation and management of transient ischemic attack and minor stroke. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 9, 2013.
- Adams JG. Emergency Medicine. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 9, 2013.
- Swanson JW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 12, 2013.
- Fulgham JR (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 24, 2013.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.