Acute-onset amnesia is a dramatic neurological presentation that can cause considerable concern to both patient and clinician. The patient typically presents with an inability not only to retain new memories but also to access previously acquired memories, suggesting disturbance of hippocampal function. Transient global amnesia (TGA) is the most common cause of acute-onset amnesia, and is characterised by a profound anterograde and retrograde amnesia that typically lasts for up to 24 hours. Although TGA has a strikingly stereotypical presentation, it can be challenging to distinguish from other causes of acute-onset amnesia, including posterior circulation strokes, transient epileptic amnesia, psychogenic amnesia, post-traumatic amnesia, and toxic/drug-related amnesia. Here, we describe the general approach to the patient with acute amnesia; summarise the clinical and neuropsychological differences between the potential causes; and, provide practical recommendations to aid diagnosis and management of acute amnesia. Regardless of cause and the dramatic presentation, non-ischaemic acute-onset amnesia generally has a favourable prognosis.
- cognitive neuropsychology
Data availability statement
No data are available.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.
Contributors The manuscript was desgined by TM and CB. The authors contributed to drafting and revision of the manuscript for intellectual content.
Funding TDM is supported by the Wellcome Trust (2229/Z/21/Z).
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed by Adam Zeman, Exeter, UK, and John Baker, Truro, UK.