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Diagnosis - Transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

If you think you've had a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), contact your GP as soon as possible.

They may refer you to a specialist for further tests to help find the cause of the TIA.

Initial assessment

TIAs are often over very quickly, so you may not have any symptoms by the time you see your GP.

If they suspect you've had a TIA, you'll be given aspirin and other medicines that can lower your cholesterol or blood pressure.

You'll be given these to take straight away to prevent a stroke. You'll also be referred to a specialist for further tests.

Your GP may refer you to hospital straight away if they:

  • are not sure if the symptoms have fully cleared
  • think you may be at risk of another TIA soon

Specialist assessment

You'll usually be seen by a doctor who specialises in conditions that affect the brain (geriatrician, neurologist or stroke specialist).

This may be in either:

  • a specialist stroke clinic
  • an acute stroke unit

They will ask you about the symptoms you had during the TIA and how long they lasted. This will help to rule out other conditions that may have caused your symptoms.

Even if you no longer have symptoms, you may still need a neurological examination. This involves simple tasks designed to check your strength, sensation and co-ordination skills.


Several tests may be done to confirm a TIA and look for problems that may have caused it.

Some of these tests include:

  • blood pressure tests
  • blood tests
  • electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • carotid ultrasound
  • brain scans
  • echocardiogram

Blood pressure tests

Your blood pressure will be checked. This is because high blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to TIAs.

Blood tests

You might need blood tests to check if you have:

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram (ECG) measures your heart's electrical activity using a number of electrodes (small, sticky patches) attached to your skin.

An ECG can detect abnormal heart rhythms. This may be a sign of conditions such as atrial fibrillation where you have an irregular heartbeat. This can increase your risk of TIAs.

Carotid ultrasound

A carotid ultrasound scan can show if there is narrowing or any blockages in the neck arteries leading to your brain.

A small probe (transducer) sends sound waves into your body. When these sound waves bounce back, they can be used to create an image of the inside of your body.

Brain scans

You may have scans to take a picture of your brain. This is to check for any bleeds or issues with the blood supply to your brain. The scans are usually a CT scan or an MRI.


An echocardiogram, or "echo", is a scan used to look at the heart and nearby blood vessels.

A heart specialist (cardiologist) or any doctor may request an echocardiogram. They will do this if they think that you might have a problem with your heart.

The test will take place at a hospital or clinic.

Page last reviewed: 26 July 2023
Next review due: 26 July 2026