An Update on Transient Ischemic Attacks

Janice Hinkle


J Neurosci Nurs. 2005;37(5):243-248. 

In This Article


The pathophysiology of TIA is transient ischemia to the brain, which can have various causes. The etiology of TIA is thought to be either from atrial fibrillation, carotid artery disease, large artery disease, small artery disease (Johnston, 2002), or other causes. Some less common causes include hypercoagulable states, illicit drug use (Feinberg et al., 1994), and fibromuscular dysplasia (Slovut & Olin, 2004).

The various symptoms produced by TIAs are classified according to the anterior or posterior blood circulation to the brain (Bader & Littlejohns, 2004; Hickey, 2003). Anterior circulation symptoms include those associated with either the carotid, anterior cerebral, or middle cerebral artery. Posterior circulation includes the posterior cerebral artery and vertebrobasilar system. Posterior circulation supplies glucose and oxygen to the brainstem and cerebellum. An overview of the symptoms corresponding with each arterial distribution can be found in Table 1 .