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"What is a TIA attack?"


My grandma had a TIA attack and she's in the hospital. What is this exactly, and how will it affect her?


Hopefully your grandmother is recovering now and will be able to leave the hospital soon. A TIA can be very frightening for patients and families. As you may have been told, TIA stands for transient ischemic attack and refers to an episode in which a part of the brain does not get enough oxygen.

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This is very similar to what happens during a stroke, and the mechanism for TIA and stroke are often the same (blockage of arteries that supply blood to the brain, often by the same atherosclerotic plaques responsible for heart disease). The difference between a TIA and a stroke is that a TIA is reversible because the period of ischemia (or impaired oxygen flow) is transient and therefore unable to lead to a full stroke. When a person has a TIA, it is very important to do everything possible to prevent a stroke in future. A TIA is sort of like a warning sign that a stroke could happen at any time, so the goal is to prevent this from happening. Your grandmother's doctors will want to do a thorough evaluation of her heart, the blood vessels in her neck, and some blood work to make sure that every risk factor has been addressed and minimized in future. In order for your grandmother and your family to understand what has happened, the best thing to do is try to arrange a family meeting with her doctors in the hospital and then follow up on any other issues with her primary care physician after hospital discharge.

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