Transient global amnesia (TGA) is a clinical syndrome characterized by the sudden onset of anterograde amnesia (the inability to encode new memories), accompanied by repetitive questioning, sometimes with a retrograde component, lasting up to 24 hours, without compromise of other neurologic functions. Herein, we review current knowledge on the epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical diagnosis, and prognosis of TGA. For this review, we conducted a literature search of PubMed, with no date limitations, using the following search terms (or combinations of them): transient global amnesia, etiology, pathophysiology, venous hypertension, migraine, magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, electroencephalography, prognosis, and outcome. We also reviewed the bibliography cited in the retrieved articles. Transient global amnesia is a clinical diagnosis, and recognition of its characteristic features can avoid unnecessary testing. Several pathophysiologic mechanisms have been proposed (venous insufficiency, arterial ischemia, and migrainous or epileptic phenomena), but none of them has been proved to consistently explain cases of TGA. Brain imaging may be considered and electroencephalography is recommended when episodes are brief and recurrent, but otherwise no investigations are necessary in most cases. Data on long-term prognosis are limited, but available information suggests that the relapse rate is low, the risk of stroke and seizures is not considerably increased, and cognitive outcome is generally good.
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