TIA (Mini Stroke) Symptoms: A Trip to the ER

Medical Author: Benjamin C. Wedro, MD, FAAEM
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

The event

A 73 year old woman is vacuuming when her left leg becomes weak and she has difficulty standing. Her face and left arm become numb. She calls for her husband, who helps her to a chair, and even though the symptoms resolve within five minutes, they decide to go to the hospital. In the hospital parking lot, they debate whether they should go into the Emergency Department or just turn around and go home.

This woman has suffered a TIA, or transient ischemic attack, which is basically a stroke that resolves on its own. Since the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body (and vice versa), she suffered reversible damage to her right brain and that caused her left leg to get weak and also developed numbness on the left side.

After some discussion, the woman decides she wants to seek medical care, and she and her husband walk through the Emergency Department doors. The doctor and nurse take a medical history to find out what happened. All of the symptoms have resolved, so the next step is follow-up care. The healthcare team asks the patient if she has any of the known risk factors for stroke (which are the same for heart disease):