Transient global amnesia (TGA)

David Goldemund M.D.
Updated on 11/03/2024, published on 24/03/2021
  • transient global amnesia (TGA) is a sudden, temporary (lasting < 24h) episode of memory loss with the absence of other neurological signs that can’t be attributed to more common neurological conditions, such as epilepsy or stroke
  • TGA is mostly non-recurrent
  • can be triggered by intense emotional experiences
  • annual incidence ~ 5–11  per 100,000 people in the general population, with a higher prevalence in individuals over 50 years of age
  • TGA is considered a benign disorder; recurrences are relatively uncommon (12–19%), and it is not associated with an increased risk of stroke  [Mangla, 2013]

Clinical presentation

  • sudden onset of memory loss, verified by a witness, duration < 24 h (mostly 3-6 h, rarely > 12h), usually with the gradual return of memory
    • anterograde amnesia
      • inability to form new memories and to recall recent past events
      • a common feature includes repetitive questioning, typically asking the same questions (“How did we get here?”, “What am I doing here?”)
    • retrograde amnesia
      • inability to recall events that immediately preceded the memory loss
  • retention of personal identity despite memory loss
  • normal cognition, such as the ability to recognize and name familiar objects and follow simple directions
  • the patient may be slightly restless and anxious, but adequately given the situation
  • absence of focal neurological deficits (hemiparesis, involuntary movements, problems with speech, apraxia, etc.)
  • no evidence of seizures during the amnestic episode and no history of active epilepsy
Hodges and Warlow diagnostic criteria for Transient Global Amnesia
  • the attacks must be witnessed
  • anterograde amnesia must occur during an attack
  • cognitive impairment should be limited to amnesia
  • no clouding of consciousness or loss of personal identity
  • no focal neurological signs/symptoms
  • no epileptic features
  • the attack must resolve within < 24h
  • no recent head injury or active epilepsy


  • transient global amnesia is associated with dysfunction in the medial part of the temporal lobes, particularly the hippocampus, is observed
  • the exact etiology and etiopathogenesis have not yet been clearly elucidated
    • spreading depression or transient vasospasms are considered
  • inconsistent MR DWI findings highlight ambiguities regarding the etiology – some DWI studies yield negative results, while others show images resembling stroke  [Bartsch, 2007]
    • punctuate hyperintensity on DWI, hypointense on ADC map with normalization of ADC signal occurring within ten days
    • however, it remains unclear whether these patients do not actually have TGA syndrome
  • it is necessary to exclude TGA syndrome (stroke/TIA, epileptic seizure or nonconvulsive status epilepticus, and metabolic disorders)

Diagnostic evaluation

Computed tomography (CT)
  • negative in true TGA
  • transient hypoperfusion of hippocampi and mesiotemporal structures
DWI finding in TGA patient
Transient global amnesia (TGA)

Differential diagnosis

  • exclusion of TGA syndrome (stroke, epilepsy, and other stroke mimics)
  • TGA is not associated with an increased risk of ischemic stroke  [Mangla, 2013]
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  • no specific treatment is needed for true TGA
  • supportive care includes ensuring patient safety, keeping the patient calm, and monitoring their vital signs
  • treatment of TGA syndrome depends on its etiology (antiseizure medications, antiplatelet therapy, lifestyle modifications, etc.)


  • patients who experience TGA should have temporary check-ups with a neurologist or general practitioner to monitor their condition

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Transient global amnesia (TGA)