TIA Stroke Risk & Plane Travel

A transient ischemic attack offers a warning, according to the American Heart Association 1. Symptoms resembling a stroke occur during such an attack, but subside. More than half of those who suffer a TIA will have a stroke, typically within a year. According to the American Academy of Neurology, a rare type of stroke can occur after lengthy airplane flights 24. Sometimes called "economy class stroke syndrome," this type of stroke results from a blood clot traveling to the brain 4. Precautions can be taken to avoid such an event.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


Symptoms of TIA and stroke are the same, only with TIAs they are transient.


When a blood clot travels to the brain and temporarily blocks an artery, the part of the brain beyond the clot does not get oxygen. TIA symptoms last about one minute, according to the American Heart Association 1. Stroke symptoms last longer, depending on the amount of damage from lack of oxygen.

Air Travel Risks

Sitting in one position for long periods reduces the opportunity for blood to circulate. When it pools, it can clot. A clot that travels from the lung to the brain is called a pulmonary embolism. According to the Academy of Neurology, pulmonary embolism can lead to stroke, especially after air travel 24.

Reducing Risks

You can reduce the risk of forming a blood clot during extended air travel.

Before and After Flying

If you have existing medical conditions, especially a history of TIA, stroke, or other cardiovascular disease, get clearance from a physician before flying. Ask whether to take aspirin before the flight. If calves are swollen and painful after the flight, seek medical attention right away.