Transient global amnesia

Case contributed by Prof Alan Coulthard


A 77 year old female patient on antihypertensive therapy developed an acute amnestic state on hearing of the sudden death of a relative. CT head was negative. Her recall gradually improved over 24 hours. She displayed no neurological symptoms. MRI head requested to rule out pathology.

Patient Data

Age: 77
Gender: Female

The key finding in this cases is a small focus of restricted diffusion within the right hippocampus.

Case Discussion

Transient global amnesia (TGA) is a temporary loss of short term memory without other signs of impaired cognition and with absent focal neurological signs. The diagnostic criteria include that the attack should have been witnessed, there was no seizure or head injury, and the symptoms resolve within 24 hours. Common precipitating events include exercise, exposure to cold water and emotional stress. The aetiology is unclear. 

In one study of 86 patients with TGA, 6 patients showed a solitary punctate focus of restricted diffusion in the mesiotemporal/hippocampal region, and 4 patients had bilateral lesions, giving an overall lesion incidence of 11%. In another study of 203 episodes of TGA presenting to an emergency department only 16 patients had DWI lesions. However another study using serial DWI on a cohort of TGA patients reported lesions in only 2/31 scanned within hours of the event, but this increased to 26/31 patients (84%) at 48 hours. The timing of the MRI study is therefore very important.

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Case information

rID: 37792
Case created: 23rd Jun 2015
Last edited: 13th Nov 2016
Inclusion in quiz mode: Included

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