What are underlying etiologies of transient ischemic attack (TIA)?

Updated: Dec 03, 2018
  • Author: Ashish Nanda, MD; Chief Editor: Andrew K Chang, MD, MS  more...
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The TIA workup should focus on emergency/urgent risk stratification and management. Numerous potential underlying causes can be readily identified, including the following:

  • Atherosclerosis of extracranial carotid and vertebral or intracranial arteries

  • Embolic sources - Valvular disease, ventricular thrombus, or thrombus formation from atrial fibrillation, aortic arch disease, paradoxical embolism via a patent foramen ovale (PFO) or atrial-septal defect (ASD)

  • Arterial dissection

  • Arteritis - Inflammation of the arteries occurring primarily in elderly persons, especially women; noninfectious necrotizing vasculitis (primary cause); drugs; irradiation; local trauma; connective tissue diseases

  • Sympathomimetic drugs (eg, cocaine)

  • Mass lesions (eg, tumors or subdural hematomas) – These less frequently cause transient symptoms and more often result in progressive persistent symptoms

  • Hypercoagulable states (eg, genetic or associated with cancer or infection)

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