Podcast #293: Transient Global Amnesia - The Emergency Medical Minute

Author: Sam Killian, M.D.

Educational Pearls

  • Transient global amnesia is a paroxysmal, transient memory issue. Remote and immediate memory is preserved, but new memories cannot be made.
  • Patients will have a normal neurological exam and usually no other complaints.
  • The episode will last less than 24 hours, but they usually resolve after 1-2 hours.
  • This is relatively common. It happens in 5/100000 people, mostly men over 50. Recurrence is rare.
  • There is no known cause, but it is associated with migraines and classically occurs after heavy physical exertion or emotional stress.
  • Workup includes  a full neuro exam, imaging for ongoing symptoms, and labs to rule out other causes.
  • Patients can be sent home with reassurance after symptoms resolve. Instruct them to follow up with neurology. Patients with continuing symptoms should be admitted.

References:  Owen D, Paranandi B, Sivakumar R, Seevaratnam M. Classical diseases revisited: transient global amnesia. Postgraduate Medical Journal. 2007;83(978):236-239. doi:10.1136/pgmj.2006.052472.

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