How is a "ministroke" different from a regular stroke?

Answers from Jerry W. Swanson, M.D.

When people use the term "ministroke," what they're really often referring to is a transient ischemic attack (TIA) — a temporary interruption of blood flow to part of the brain, spinal cord or retina.

The symptoms of a TIA are similar to those of a stroke, but a TIA doesn't destroy brain cells or cause permanent disability. However, TIAs may recur, and each TIA increases the risk of a subsequent stroke.

If you suspect that you've had a TIA, seek immediate medical attention. You may need various diagnostic tests, such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or a computerized tomography (CT) scan, to help determine what caused the TIA.

Depending on the underlying cause, you may need medication to prevent blood clots or a procedure to remove fatty deposits (plaques) from the arteries that supply blood to your brain (carotid endarterectomy).

May 07, 2013