Transient global amnesia

Erica P Meltzer PhD (

Dr. Meltzer of North Shore University Hospital, Northwell Health has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

)
Remington J Stafford BA (Mr. Stafford of Queens College of the City University of New York has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.)
Heidi A Bender PhD (

Dr. Bender of Mount Sinai School of Medicine has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

)
Luba Nakhutina PhD ABPP-CN (

Dr. Nakhutina of SUNY Downstate Medical Center has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

)
Adam E Saad PsyD (

Dr. Saad of Mount Sinai School of Medicine has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

)
Kerri A Scorpio PhD (

Dr. Scorpio of Queens College of the City University of New York has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

)
Deeksha Sharma PhD (

Dr. Sharma of Cornell University has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

)
Jamie T Twaite PhD (

Dr. Twaite of Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

)
Obiageli Uguru MSc (

Ms. Uguru of Fuller School of Psychology has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

)
Joan C Borod PhD (

Dr. Borod of Queens College of the City University of New York has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

)
Howard S Kirshner MD, editor. (

Dr. Kirshner of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine received fees from Biogen for consulting work.

)
Originally released September 18, 1995; last updated November 15, 2020; expires November 15, 2023

Overview

Transient global amnesia represents an episode of acute onset of transient global anterograde amnesia, with a variable degree of impairment of retrograde memory, which is not associated with any other major neurologic signs or symptoms. Resolution is gradual, with subjective recovery occurring in two thirds of patients within 2 to 12 hours and, in almost all, within 24 hours. It has been suggested that not only is memory affected, but executive functions are diminished as well. The etiology is still controversial, and there are a few posited hypotheses, which will be discussed herein.

Key points

 

• Transient global amnesia is characterized by acute onset of transient global anterograde amnesia that is not associated with any other major neurologic signs or symptoms.

 

• Amnesia episodes typically last less than 10 hours, but some can last up to 24 hours.

 

• Recurrence is low, probably around 5% per year.

 

• In a significant percentage of cases, a precipitant factor (physical or psychological) can be identified.

Historical note and terminology

Neurologists C Miller Fisher and Raymond D Adams coined the term "transient global amnesia," but this syndrome was first described in 1956 by Bender as the "syndrome of [an] isolated episode of confusion with amnesia" and by Guyotat and Courjon as "l'ictus amnesique" or amnestic ictus (Bender 1956; Guyotat and Courjon 1956; Fisher and Adams 1958). Probably before 1950 it was interpreted either as a psychogenic amnesia or as an amnesia occurring after an emotional shock (Gil et al 2010). Criteria for the clinical syndrome of transient global amnesia were formulated by Hodges and Warlow (Hodges and Warlow 1990b), and since then, these criteria have been the foundation for diagnosis (Spiegel et al 2017). The essential features are an episode of acute onset of transient global anterograde amnesia, with a variable degree of impairment of retrograde memory, which is not associated with any other major neurologic signs or symptoms (Bender 1956). Since this syndrome's recognition, controversy has surrounded its pathogenesis, treatment, and prognosis.

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