Smarter Decisions,
Better Care

UpToDate synthesizes the most recent medical information into evidence-based practical recommendations clinicians trust to make the right point-of-care decisions.

  • Rigorous editorial process: Evidence-based treatment recommendations
  • World-Renowned physician authors: over 5,100 physician authors and editors around the globe
  • Innovative technology: integrates into the workflow; access from EMRs

Choose from the list below to learn more about subscriptions for a:

Subscribers log in here

Transient global amnesia


Transient global amnesia (TGA) is a clinical syndrome of reversible anterograde amnesia accompanied by repetitive questioning that occurs in middle-aged and elderly individuals [1,2].

The etiology of TGA remains obscure. While the prognosis for TGA is generally benign, other diseases in the differential diagnosis carry potential for serious long-term sequelae, making it important for clinicians to be familiar with the diagnosis and evaluation.


In the general population, the incidence of transient global amnesia (TGA) has been estimated as 5.2 to 10 per 100,000 per year [3-6]. Among those 50 years and older, it is 23.5 to 32 per 100,000 per year.

The majority of episodes occur in individuals between the ages of 50 and 80 years, with a mean age of onset between 60 and 65 years [2,3]. The incidence of TGA does not differ according to gender [2,4,5].

Atherosclerotic risk factors (eg, hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia) are not believed to be associated with TGA. While common in this aged population, case-control studies find no difference in the prevalence of these risk factors between TGA patients and age and gender-matched controls [2,7-14].


Subscribers log in here

To continue reading this article, you must log in with your personal, hospital, or group practice subscription. For more information or to purchase a personal subscription, click below on the option that best describes you:
Literature review current through: Jun 2014. | This topic last updated: Feb 11, 2014.
The content on the UpToDate website is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. The use of this website is governed by the UpToDate Terms of Use ©2014 UpToDate, Inc.
  1. Caplan, LR. Transient global amnesia. In: Handbook of Clinical Neurology, Vol. 1 (45), Vinken, PJ, Bruyn, GW, Klawans, HL, (Eds), Elsevier Science Publishers, Amsterdam 1985. p.205.
  2. Quinette P, Guillery-Girard B, Dayan J, et al. What does transient global amnesia really mean? Review of the literature and thorough study of 142 cases. Brain 2006; 129:1640.
  3. Miller JW, Petersen RC, Metter EJ, et al. Transient global amnesia: clinical characteristics and prognosis. Neurology 1987; 37:733.
  4. Lauria G, Gentile M, Fassetta G, et al. Incidence of transient global amnesia in the Belluno province, Italy: 1985 through 1995. Results of a community-based study. Acta Neurol Scand 1997; 95:303.
  5. Koski KJ, Marttila RJ. Transient global amnesia: incidence in an urban population. Acta Neurol Scand 1990; 81:358.
  6. Sander K, Sander D. New insights into transient global amnesia: recent imaging and clinical findings. Lancet Neurol 2005; 4:437.
  7. Sedlaczek O, Hirsch JG, Grips E, et al. Detection of delayed focal MR changes in the lateral hippocampus in transient global amnesia. Neurology 2004; 62:2165.
  8. Bartsch T, Alfke K, Stingele R, et al. Selective affection of hippocampal CA-1 neurons in patients with transient global amnesia without long-term sequelae. Brain 2006; 129:2874.
  9. Sander D, Winbeck K, Etgen T, et al. Disturbance of venous flow patterns in patients with transient global amnesia. Lancet 2000; 356:1982.
  10. Zorzon M, Antonutti L, Masè G, et al. Transient global amnesia and transient ischemic attack. Natural history, vascular risk factors, and associated conditions. Stroke 1995; 26:1536.
  11. Maalikjy Akkawi N, Agosti C, Anzola GP, et al. Transient global amnesia: a clinical and sonographic study. Eur Neurol 2003; 49:67.
  12. Chen ST, Tang LM, Hsu WC, et al. Clinical features, vascular risk factors, and prognosis for transient global amnesia in Chinese patients. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis 1999; 8:295.
  13. Enzinger C, Thimary F, Kapeller P, et al. Transient global amnesia: diffusion-weighted imaging lesions and cerebrovascular disease. Stroke 2008; 39:2219.
  14. Romero JR, Mercado M, Beiser AS, et al. Transient global amnesia and neurological events: the framingham heart study. Front Neurol 2013; 4:47.
  15. Melo TP, Ferro JM, Ferro H. Transient global amnesia. A case control study. Brain 1992; 115 Pt 1:261.
  16. Schmidtke K, Ehmsen L. Transient global amnesia and migraine. A case control study. Eur Neurol 1998; 40:9.
  17. Guillery B, Desgranges B, de la Sayette V, et al. Transient global amnesia: concomitant episodic memory and positron emission tomography assessment in two additional patients. Neurosci Lett 2002; 325:62.
  18. Markowitsch HJ, Staniloiu A. Amnesic disorders. Lancet 2012; 380:1429.
  19. Westmacott R, Silver FL, McAndrews MP. Understanding medial temporal activation in memory tasks: evidence from fMRI of encoding and recognition in a case of transient global amnesia. Hippocampus 2008; 18:317.
  20. Nakada T, Kwee IL, Fujii Y, Knight RT. High-field, T2 reversed MRI of the hippocampus in transient global amnesia. Neurology 2005; 64:1170.
  21. Lee HY, Kim JH, Weon YC, et al. Diffusion-weighted imaging in transient global amnesia exposes the CA1 region of the hippocampus. Neuroradiology 2007; 49:481.
  22. Dupont S, Samson S, Baulac M. Is anterior temporal lobectomy a precipitating factor for transient global amnesia? J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2008; 79:309.
  23. Bartsch T, Alfke K, Wolff S, et al. Focal MR spectroscopy of hippocampal CA-1 lesions in transient global amnesia. Neurology 2008; 70:1030.
  24. Pantoni L, Lamassa M, Inzitari D. Transient global amnesia: a review emphasizing pathogenic aspects. Acta Neurol Scand 2000; 102:275.
  25. Menéndez González M, Rivera MM. Transient global amnesia: increasing evidence of a venous etiology. Arch Neurol 2006; 63:1334.
  26. Bettermann K. Transient global amnesia: the continuing quest for a source. Arch Neurol 2006; 63:1336.
  27. Roach ES. Transient global amnesia: look at mechanisms not causes. Arch Neurol 2006; 63:1338.
  28. Solheim O, Skeidsvoll T. Transient global amnesia may be caused by cerebral vein thrombosis. Med Hypotheses 2005; 65:1142.
  29. Lewis SL. Aetiology of transient global amnesia. Lancet 1998; 352:397.
  30. Tong DC, Grossman M. What causes transient global amnesia? New insights from DWI. Neurology 2004; 62:2154.
  31. Kim HY, Kang HS, Roh HG, et al. Transient global amnesia following vertebral artery angioplasty and stenting. Eur Neurol 2006; 56:133.
  32. Taylor RA, Wu GF, Hurst RW, et al. Transient global amnesia heralding basilar artery thrombosis. Clin Neurol Neurosurg 2005; 108:60.
  33. Mondon K, Blechet C, Gochard A, et al. Transient global amnesia caused by painless aortic dissection. Emerg Med J 2007; 24:63.
  34. Semmler A, Klein A, Moskau S, Linnebank M. Transient global amnesia-like episode in a patient with severe hyperhomocysteinemia. Eur J Neurol 2007; 14:e5.
  35. Montalbán J, Arboix A, Staub H, et al. Transient global amnesia and antiphospholipid antibodies. Clin Exp Rheumatol 1989; 7:85.
  36. Warkentin TE, Hirte HW, Anderson DR, et al. Transient global amnesia associated with acute heparin-induced thrombocytopenia. Am J Med 1994; 97:489.
  37. Greer DM, Schaefer PW, Schwamm LH. Unilateral temporal lobe stroke causing ischemic transient global amnesia: role for diffusion-weighted imaging in the initial evaluation. J Neuroimaging 2001; 11:317.
  38. Ravindran V, Jain S, Ming A, Bartlett RJ. Transient global amnesia in a patient with acute unilateral caudate nucleus ischemia. J Clin Neurosci 2004; 11:669.
  39. Saito K, Kimura K, Minematsu K, et al. Transient global amnesia associated with an acute infarction in the retrosplenium of the corpus callosum. J Neurol Sci 2003; 210:95.
  40. Ott BR, Saver JL. Unilateral amnesic stroke. Six new cases and a review of the literature. Stroke 1993; 24:1033.
  41. Yoon B, Yoo JY, Shim YS, et al. Transient global amnesia associated with acute intracerebral hemorrhage at the cingulate gyrus. Eur Neurol 2006; 56:54.
  42. Pantoni L, Bertini E, Lamassa M, et al. Clinical features, risk factors, and prognosis in transient global amnesia: a follow-up study. Eur J Neurol 2005; 12:350.
  43. Winbeck K, Etgen T, von Einsiedel HG, et al. DWI in transient global amnesia and TIA: proposal for an ischaemic origin of TGA. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2005; 76:438.
  44. Hirabayashi H, Shimizu M, Kohara S, Shinohara Y. Activated platelets in transient global amnesia and TIA. Neurology 2004; 63:736.
  45. Mangla A, Navi BB, Layton K, Kamel H. Transient global amnesia and the risk of ischemic stroke. Stroke 2014; 45:389.
  46. Klötzsch C, Sliwka U, Berlit P, Noth J. An increased frequency of patent foramen ovale in patients with transient global amnesia. Analysis of 53 consecutive patients. Arch Neurol 1996; 53:504.
  47. Park YH, Jang JW, Yang Y, et al. Reflections of two parallel pathways between the hippocampus and neocortex in transient global amnesia: a cross-sectional study using DWI and SPECT. PLoS One 2013; 8:e67447.
  48. Toledo M, Pujadas F, Grivé E, et al. Lack of evidence for arterial ischemia in transient global amnesia. Stroke 2008; 39:476.
  49. Weon YC, Kim JH, Lee JS, Kim SY. Optimal diffusion-weighted imaging protocol for lesion detection in transient global amnesia. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 2008; 29:1324.
  50. Bartsch T, Alfke K, Deuschl G, Jansen O. Evolution of hippocampal CA-1 diffusion lesions in transient global amnesia. Ann Neurol 2007; 62:475.
  51. Yang Y, Kim JS, Kim S, et al. Cerebellar Hypoperfusion during Transient Global Amnesia: An MRI and Oculographic Study. J Clin Neurol 2009; 5:74.
  52. Chung YA, Jeong J, Yang DW, et al. A Tc-99m SPECT study of regional cerebral blood flow in patients with transient global amnesia. Neuroimage 2009; 47:50.
  53. Eustache F, Desgranges B, Petit-Taboué MC, et al. Transient global amnesia: implicit/explicit memory dissociation and PET assessment of brain perfusion and oxygen metabolism in the acute stage. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1997; 63:357.
  54. Chung CP, Hsu HY, Chao AC, et al. Detection of intracranial venous reflux in patients of transient global amnesia. Neurology 2006; 66:1873.
  55. Cejas C, Cisneros LF, Lagos R, et al. Internal jugular vein valve incompetence is highly prevalent in transient global amnesia. Stroke 2010; 41:67.
  56. Baracchini C, Tonello S, Farina F, et al. Jugular veins in transient global amnesia: innocent bystanders. Stroke 2012; 43:2289.
  57. Chung CP, Hsu HY, Chao AC, et al. Transient global amnesia: cerebral venous outflow impairment-insight from the abnormal flow patterns of the internal jugular vein. Ultrasound Med Biol 2007; 33:1727.
  58. Schreiber SJ, Doepp F, Klingebiel R, Valdueza JM. Internal jugular vein valve incompetence and intracranial venous anatomy in transient global amnesia. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2005; 76:509.
  59. Strupp M, Brüning R, Wu RH, et al. Diffusion-weighted MRI in transient global amnesia: elevated signal intensity in the left mesial temporal lobe in 7 of 10 patients. Ann Neurol 1998; 43:164.
  60. Berlit P. Successful prophylaxis of recurrent transient global amnesia with metoprolol. Neurology 2000; 55:1937.
  61. Teive HA, Kowacs PA, Maranhão Filho P, et al. Leao's cortical spreading depression: from experimental "artifact" to physiological principle. Neurology 2005; 65:1455.
  62. Jacome DE. EEG features in transient global amnesia. Clin Electroencephalogr 1989; 20:183.
  63. Bartsch T, Butler C. Transient amnesic syndromes. Nat Rev Neurol 2013; 9:86.
  64. Inzitari D, Pantoni L, Lamassa M, et al. Emotional arousal and phobia in transient global amnesia. Arch Neurol 1997; 54:866.
  65. Sancesario G, Esposito Z, Mozzi AF, et al. Transient global amnesia: linked to a systemic disorder of amino acid catabolism? J Neurol 2013; 260:1429.
  66. Hodges JR, Warlow CP. Syndromes of transient amnesia: towards a classification. A study of 153 cases. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1990; 53:834.
  67. Webb AJ, Rothwell PM. Neurological picture. Transient global amnesia associated with bilateral restricted diffusion in the lateral hippocampus. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2013; 84:522.
  68. Hiraga A, Matsunaga T. Transient global amnesia after gastroscopy. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2006; 77:995.
  69. Agosti C, Borroni B, Akkawi NM, et al. Acute myocardial infarction presenting with transient global amnesia. J Am Geriatr Soc 2006; 54:1004.
  70. Courand PY, Sibellas F, Gonidec S, et al. Acute myocardial infarction: a precipitating event for transient global amnesia. J Cardiovasc Med (Hagerstown) 2014; 15:78.
  71. Huber R, Aschoff AJ, Ludolph AC, Riepe MW. Transient Global Amnesia. Evidence against vascular ischemic etiology from diffusion weighted imaging. J Neurol 2002; 249:1520.
  72. Gass A, Gaa J, Hirsch J, et al. Lack of evidence of acute ischemic tissue change in transient global amnesia on single-shot echo-planar diffusion-weighted MRI. Stroke 1999; 30:2070.
  73. Matsui M, Imamura T, Sakamoto S, et al. Transient global amnesia: increased signal intensity in the right hippocampus on diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging. Neuroradiology 2002; 44:235.
  74. Kim J, Kwon Y, Yang Y, et al. Clinical Experience of Modified Diffusion-Weighted Imaging Protocol for Lesion Detection in Transient Global Amnesia: An 8-Year Large-Scale Clinical Study. J Neuroimaging 2013.
  75. Scheel M, Malkowsky C, Klingebiel R, et al. Magnetic resonance imaging in transient global amnesia: lessons learned from 198 cases. Clin Neuroradiol 2012; 22:335.
  76. Zeman AZ, Boniface SJ, Hodges JR. Transient epileptic amnesia: a description of the clinical and neuropsychological features in 10 cases and a review of the literature. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1998; 64:435.
  77. Butler CR, Zeman AZ. Recent insights into the impairment of memory in epilepsy: transient epileptic amnesia, accelerated long-term forgetting and remote memory impairment. Brain 2008; 131:2243.
  78. Butler CR, Bhaduri A, Acosta-Cabronero J, et al. Transient epileptic amnesia: regional brain atrophy and its relationship to memory deficits. Brain 2009; 132:357.
  79. Bilo L, Meo R, Ruosi P, et al. Transient epileptic amnesia: an emerging late-onset epileptic syndrome. Epilepsia 2009; 50 Suppl 5:58.
  80. Milton F, Muhlert N, Pindus DM, et al. Remote memory deficits in transient epileptic amnesia. Brain 2010; 133:1368.
  81. Gallassi R. Epileptic amnesic syndrome: an update and further considerations. Epilepsia 2006; 47 Suppl 2:103.
  82. Agosti C, Akkawi NM, Borroni B, Padovani A. Recurrency in transient global amnesia: a retrospective study. Eur J Neurol 2006; 13:986.
  83. Guillery-Girard B, Quinette P, Desgranges B, et al. Long-term memory following transient global amnesia: an investigation of episodic and semantic memory. Acta Neurol Scand 2006; 114:329.
  84. Le Pira F, Giuffrida S, Maci T, et al. Cognitive findings after transient global amnesia: role of prefrontal cortex. Appl Neuropsychol 2005; 12:212.
  85. Borroni B, Agosti C, Brambilla C, et al. Is transient global amnesia a risk factor for amnestic mild cognitive impairment? J Neurol 2004; 251:1125.
  86. Uttner I, Weber S, Freund W, et al. Transient global amnesia--full recovery without persistent cognitive impairment. Eur Neurol 2007; 58:146.
  87. Graff-Radford J, Josephs KA. Primary progressive aphasia and transient global amnesia. Arch Neurol 2012; 69:401.
  88. Nitrini R, Hosogi-Senaha ML, Caramelli P. Primary progressive aphasia and transient global amnesia. Arch Neurol 2012; 69:1214.
  89. Buhr J, Evers S, Husstedt IW, Frese A. Event related potentials in patients with transient global amnesia--a prospective controlled study. J Neurol Sci 2013; 325:57.
  90. Jäger T, Bäzner H, Kliegel M, et al. The transience and nature of cognitive impairments in transient global amnesia: a meta-analysis. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 2009; 31:8.