Is labored breathing typical after a mini-stroke?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My dad had a mini stroke yesterday with full recovery in about an hour. Today he was lying down sleeping and was having a hard time breathing. It was very labored. Is this normal?

Expert Answer

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

A "mini-stroke" is a term I don't like, because it is not clear what happened. A "TIA", by contrast, is a term used for a neurologic spell that was believed to be due to a vascular cause that lasted less than 24 hours. Since your father's symptoms fully recovered within an hour, by definition, this would be a "TIA", and the labored breathing should have nothing to do with the "TIA".

Therefore, I think it is imperative that you have your father examined by his primary physician immediately. Labored breathing could indicate anything from sleep apnea to a heart or lung condition. Based on your description, it should have nothing to do with the "TIA".

If, by "mini stroke", your doctor meant that your father actually had a true "stroke" - meaning that THERE WAS damage done to the brain, I would still have this issued examined immediately by a physician. If the stroke caused damage to the breathing centers, then sleep apnea or pneumonia could result, and this needs to be looked into right away.