What is the difference between a stroke and a mini-stroke (TIA)?

Strokes, and mini-strokes, are both serious conditions affecting the blood supply to the brain. In this first aid blog post, we will discuss the difference between a stroke and a mini-stroke (TIA). First aiders and first responders should know the signs and symptoms of a suspected stroke and the importance of calling for emergency medical help.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a common medical emergency and may be due to either intracranial hemorrhage (bleed) or infarction (clot). Approximately 85% of strokes are caused by cerebral infarction and 15% by intracranial hemorrhage. Infarction occurs when brain cells die due to a lack of oxygen, often due to a blood clot in one of the main arteries of the brain. A hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, resulting in bleeding into the brain tissue.

The signs and symptoms of a stroke include:

  • Facial weakness
  • Arm or leg weakness
  • Speech disturbance
  • Sudden onset eyesight problems
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

The ‘FAST’ test is used to quickly identify patients who may be having a stroke:

  • Face – is there any facial droop?
  • Arms – can the patient lift both arms and keep them there?
  • Speech – is there any slurred speech?
  • Time – seek emergency medical help if a stroke is suspected

What is a mini-stroke (TIA)?

A mini-stroke is also known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). It is defined as stroke symptoms which last for less than 24 hours. A TIA is still a serious condition as patients are at a much higher risk of going on to have a stroke. In addition, it is impossible to distinguish between a TIA and a stroke if the patient has ongoing symptoms. A TIA occurs when blood supply to part of the brain is briefly interrupted. TIA symptoms, which usually occur suddenly, are the same as those of stroke but are usually short-lasting. Patients who have a TIA need to commence medication to reduce their risk of having a stroke in the future.

First Aid Flashcard – the FAST test

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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