Postgrad Med J 83:236-239 doi:10.1136/pgmj.2006.052472
  • Review

Classical diseases revisited: transient global amnesia

  1. D Owen,
  2. B Paranandi,
  3. R Sivakumar,
  4. M Seevaratnam
  1. Department of Medicine, Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr R Sivakumar
 89 Goring Road, Ipswich IP4 5LP, UK; sivasiva51{at}
  • Received 17 August 2006
  • Accepted 5 October 2006


Transient global amnesia usually affects patients between the ages of 40 and 80. Patients with this condition are often described – wrongly – as being confused. It presents classically with an abrupt onset of severe anterograde amnesia. It is usually accompanied by repetitive questioning. The patient does not have any focal neurological symptoms. Patients remain alert, attentive, and cognition is not impaired. However, they are disoriented to time and place. Attacks usually last for 1–8 h but should be less than 24 h. It is possible that it may result from different mechanisms such as venous congestion with valsalva-like activities before symptom onset, arterial thromboembolic ischaemia and vasoconstriction due to hyperventilation. Diagnosis may be made safely in the presence of a characteristic collateral history. No specific treatment is indicated for a typical episode.