Of 153 patients presenting with acute transient amnesia, 114 fulfilled the proposed strict diagnostic criteria for transient global amnesia (TGA). The prognosis of this group was excellent with the exception of a small subgroup (7%), largely identifiable because of atypically brief or recurrent attacks, who developed epilepsy of temporal lobe type on follow up. Computerised tomography (CT) scans performed on 95 patients were normal, evidence for covert alcoholism was lacking and there was a familial incidence of approximately 2%. By contrast, the group of 39 patients who did not meet the criteria for TGA had a significantly worse prognosis with a high incidence of major vascular events. The groups could not be distinguished on the basis of behavioural characteristics during the attack. The following classification was proposed: 1) pure TGA--attacks fulfilling the strict criteria, and of more than one hour in duration which do not require detailed investigation, 2) probable epileptic amnesia--attacks of less than an hour or rapidly recurrent, 3) probable transient ischaemic amnesia, a minority of cases with additional focal neurological deficits during the attack.
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