The goals of the present study were to estimate the prevalence of acute impairments and disability in a multiethnic population of first-ever stroke and to identify differences in impairment and early disability between pathological and Bamford subtypes. Associations between impairments and death and disability at 3 months were identified. Impairments that occur at the time of maximum neurological deficit were recorded, and disability according to the Barthel Index (BI) was assessed 1 week and 3 months after stroke in patients in the South London Stroke Register: Of 1259 registered patients, 6% had 1 or 2, 31.1% had 3 to 5, 50.6% had 6 to 10, and 10.6% had >10 impairments. Common impairments were weakness (upper limb, 77.4%), urinary incontinence (48.2%), impaired consciousness (44.7%), dysphagia (44.7%), and impaired cognition (43.9%). Patients with total anterior circulation infarcts had the highest age-adjusted prevalence of weakness, dysphagia, urinary incontinence, cognitive impairment, and disability. Patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage had the highest rates of coma. Patients with lacunar stroke had the high prevalence of weakness but were least affected by disability, incontinence, and cognitive dysfunction. Blacks had higher age- and sex-adjusted rates of disability in ischemic stroke (BI <20, odds ratio 2.76, 95% CI 1.47 to 5.21, P=0.002; BI <15, odds ratio 1.8, 95% CI 1.45 to 2.81, P=0.01) but impairment rates similar to those of whites. On multivariable analysis, incontinence, coma, dysphagia, cognitive impairment, and gaze paresis were independently associated with severe disability (BI <10) and death at 3 months. The extent of these findings indicates that an acute assessment of impairments and disability is necessary to determine the appropriate nursing and rehabilitation needs of patients with stroke.