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Stroke. 1995 Sep;26(9):1536-42.

Transient global amnesia and transient ischemic attack. Natural history, vascular risk factors, and associated conditions.

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Department of Neurology, University of Trieste, Italy.



The purpose of the present study was to make an attempt to ascertain the etiology of transient global amnesia (TGA), which is still disputed more than 30 years after the first description of this clinical entity.


In a case-control study, we compared the prevalence of vascular risk factors in 64 TGA patients with 64 first-ever transient ischemic attack (TIA) control subjects and 108 normal community-based control subjects matched for age and sex. We prospectively studied the vascular events and mortality rates of the TGA cases and of the TIA control subjects. Then we compared the outcome of the two groups using actuarial analysis based on survival curves.


We did not find evidence of an increased risk of TGA associated with any vascular risk factor. In contrast to TIA control subjects, no TGA patient suffered stroke, myocardial infarction, or TIA during the follow-up period. Migraine was more common in TGA patients than in both normal and TIA control subjects. In three patients (4.5%), the TGA was eventually considered to be of epileptic origin.


The results of our case-control and longitudinal studies point to the conclusion that TGA and TIA do not share the same etiology. Since half of our patients had a precipitating event in their history, it is reasonable to hypothesize that spreading depression may play a role in TGA. The significant positive association between migraine and TGA may support this hypothesis. Epilepsy may mimic TGA in a minority of cases.

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