U-M Health: What a Mini Stroke Is, and Why You Need To Act FAST

By Jan Racey Gleeson / U-M

Mollie McDermott, M.D., M.S., and Cemal Sozener, M.D., have much knowledge when it comes to identifying and treating a mini stroke, also known as a TIA, or transient ischemic attack.

McDermott, a stroke neurologist, and Sozener, an emergency physician, are co-directors of the Michigan Medicine Comprehensive Stroke Center.

Here, the two clinicians address some of the questions they’re often asked about TIAs. To get their expert advice, watch the full livestream above or read through some of the questions below:

Is a TIA the same as a mini stroke?

McDermott: TIA, or transient ischemic attack, is a specific medical term. A TIA happens when there is a temporary lack of blood flow to the brain that doesn’t cause permanent damage.

A mini stroke can mean a few things, but for the most part, when doctors refer to mini strokes, they are referring to TIAs. However, some people use the phrase for a stroke that a person recovers from quickly.

When symptoms strike, you should call 911 quickly, because you don’t know at that time whether the blood flow will restore on its own.

What makes a TIA, or mini stroke, different from a stroke?

Sozener: TIAs and strokes are both considered sudden neurological events — you’ll never know the difference up front.

While a stroke often leads to permanent disability, side effects related to a TIA or mini stroke are temporary with no lasting disability.

Symptoms of a TIA and stroke can be identified by remembering F.A.S.T., which refers to face, arms, speech and time. The face drooping, an arm going numb or speech that is slurred are all signs of a TIA or stroke, and timely treatment is critical.

What if you experience stroke symptoms, but they go away quickly?

McDermott: No matter how long your symptoms last, you should seek medical attention immediately. Although they may seem harmless at first, symptoms can worsen.

A confirmed TIA is a warning sign that a stoke could happen, especially in the first few days after a TIA. Do not ignore any stroke-like symptoms and to get to the emergency room right away.