Temporary Is Not Always Benign: Similarities and Differences Between Transient Ischemic Attack and Angina

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Abstract

The introduction of the tissue-based definition of transient ischemic attack (TIA), according to which TIA may be diagnosed only in the absence of an infarction on brain neuroimaging, prompts reflections about similarities and differences between TIA and angina. Both share transitory symptoms in the absence of tissue damage, whereas stroke and myocardial infarction are associated with tissue necrosis. Apart from this, TIA and angina are widely different with respect to pathophysiology, natural history, prognosis, and response to specific medical treatments. In general terms, it could be argued that TIA differs from angina as the brain differs from the heart in structure, physiology, metabolism, and performance. Most importantly, in TIA and angina, the reversible nature of symptoms cannot be assumed as a favorable prognostic indicator. In fact, reversibility of stable angina denotes a low-risk condition, whereas in TIA and unstable angina reversibility may suggest plaque instability and relevant risk of ischemic recurrences.

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