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      Incidence, outcome, risk factors, and long-term prognosis of cryptogenic transient ischaemic attack and ischaemic stroke: a population-based study

      , DPhil a , , DPhil a , , DPhil a , , DPhil a , , FRCR a , , DPhil a , , Prof, FMedSci a , * , Oxford Vascular Study

      The Lancet. Neurology

      Lancet Pub. Group

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          A third of transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs) and ischaemic strokes are of undetermined cause (ie, cryptogenic), potentially undermining secondary prevention. If these events are due to occult atheroma, the risk-factor profile and coronary prognosis should resemble that of overt large artery events. If they have a cardioembolic cause, the risk of future cardioembolic events should be increased. We aimed to assess the burden, outcome, risk factors, and long-term prognosis of cryptogenic TIA and stroke.


          In a population-based study in Oxfordshire, UK, among patients with a first TIA or ischaemic stroke from April 1, 2002, to March 31, 2014, we compared cryptogenic events versus other causative subtypes according to the TOAST classification. We compared markers of atherosclerosis (ie, risk factors, coronary and peripheral arterial disease, asymptomatic carotid stenosis, and 10-year risk of acute coronary events) and of cardioembolism (ie, risk of cardioembolic stroke, systemic emboli, and new atrial fibrillation [AF] during follow-up, and minor-risk echocardiographic abnormalities and subclinical paroxysmal AF at baseline in patients with index events between 2010 and 2014).


          Among 2555 patients, 812 (32%) had cryptogenic events (incidence of cryptogenic stroke 0·36 per 1000 population per year, 95% CI 0·23–0·49). Death or dependency at 6 months was similar after cryptogenic stroke compared with non-cardioembolic stroke (23% vs 27% for large artery and small vessel subtypes combined; p=0·26) as was the 10-year risk of recurrence (32% vs 27%; p=0·91). However, the cryptogenic group had fewer atherosclerotic risk factors than the large artery disease (p<0·0001), small vessel disease (p=0·001), and cardioembolic (p=0·008) groups. Compared with patients with large artery events, those with cryptogenic events had less hypertension (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0·41, 95% CI 0·30–0·56; p<0·0001), diabetes (0·62, 0·43–0·90; p=0·01), peripheral vascular disease (0·27, 0·17–0·45; p<0·0001), hypercholesterolaemia (0·53, 0·40–0·70; p<0·0001), and history of smoking (0·68, 0·51–0·92; p=0·01), and compared with small vessel and cardioembolic subtypes, they had no excess risk of asymptomatic carotid disease (adjusted OR 0·64, 95% CI 0·37–1·11; p=0·11) or acute coronary events (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] 0·76, 95% CI 0·49–1·18; p=0·22) during follow-up. Compared with large artery and small vessel subtypes combined, patients with cryptogenic events also had no excess of minor-risk echocardiographic abnormalities (cryptogenic 37% vs 45%; p=0·18) or paroxysmal AF (6% vs 10%; p=0·17) at baseline or of new AF (adjusted HR 1·23, 0·78–1·95; p=0·37) or presumed cardioembolic events (1·16, 0·62–2·17; p=0·64) during follow-up.


          The clinical burden of cryptogenic TIA and stroke is substantial. Although stroke recurrence rates are comparable with other subtypes, cryptogenic events have the fewest atherosclerotic markers and no excess of cardioembolic markers.


          Wellcome Trust, Wolfson Foundation, UK Stroke Association, British Heart Foundation, Dunhill Medical Trust, National Institute for Health Research, Medical Research Council, and the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.

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          Most cited references 32

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          Classification of subtype of acute ischemic stroke. Definitions for use in a multicenter clinical trial. TOAST. Trial of Org 10172 in Acute Stroke Treatment.

          The etiology of ischemic stroke affects prognosis, outcome, and management. Trials of therapies for patients with acute stroke should include measurements of responses as influenced by subtype of ischemic stroke. A system for categorization of subtypes of ischemic stroke mainly based on etiology has been developed for the Trial of Org 10172 in Acute Stroke Treatment (TOAST). A classification of subtypes was prepared using clinical features and the results of ancillary diagnostic studies. "Possible" and "probable" diagnoses can be made based on the physician's certainty of diagnosis. The usefulness and interrater agreement of the classification were tested by two neurologists who had not participated in the writing of the criteria. The neurologists independently used the TOAST classification system in their bedside evaluation of 20 patients, first based only on clinical features and then after reviewing the results of diagnostic tests. The TOAST classification denotes five subtypes of ischemic stroke: 1) large-artery atherosclerosis, 2) cardioembolism, 3) small-vessel occlusion, 4) stroke of other determined etiology, and 5) stroke of undetermined etiology. Using this rating system, interphysician agreement was very high. The two physicians disagreed in only one patient. They were both able to reach a specific etiologic diagnosis in 11 patients, whereas the cause of stroke was not determined in nine. The TOAST stroke subtype classification system is easy to use and has good interobserver agreement. This system should allow investigators to report responses to treatment among important subgroups of patients with ischemic stroke. Clinical trials testing treatments for acute ischemic stroke should include similar methods to diagnose subtypes of stroke.
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            Risk factors for ischaemic and intracerebral haemorrhagic stroke in 22 countries (the INTERSTROKE study): a case-control study.

            The contribution of various risk factors to the burden of stroke worldwide is unknown, particularly in countries of low and middle income. We aimed to establish the association of known and emerging risk factors with stroke and its primary subtypes, assess the contribution of these risk factors to the burden of stroke, and explore the differences between risk factors for stroke and myocardial infarction. We undertook a standardised case-control study in 22 countries worldwide between March 1, 2007, and April 23, 2010. Cases were patients with acute first stroke (within 5 days of symptoms onset and 72 h of hospital admission). Controls had no history of stroke, and were matched with cases for age and sex. All participants completed a structured questionnaire and a physical examination, and most provided blood and urine samples. We calculated odds ratios (ORs) and population-attributable risks (PARs) for the association of all stroke, ischaemic stroke, and intracerebral haemorrhagic stroke with selected risk factors. In the first 3000 cases (n=2337, 78%, with ischaemic stroke; n=663, 22%, with intracerebral haemorrhagic stroke) and 3000 controls, significant risk factors for all stroke were: history of hypertension (OR 2.64, 99% CI 2.26-3.08; PAR 34.6%, 99% CI 30.4-39.1); current smoking (2.09, 1.75-2.51; 18.9%, 15.3-23.1); waist-to-hip ratio (1.65, 1.36-1.99 for highest vs lowest tertile; 26.5%, 18.8-36.0); diet risk score (1.35, 1.11-1.64 for highest vs lowest tertile; 18.8%, 11.2-29.7); regular physical activity (0.69, 0.53-0.90; 28.5%, 14.5-48.5); diabetes mellitus (1.36, 1.10-1.68; 5.0%, 2.6-9.5); alcohol intake (1.51, 1.18-1.92 for more than 30 drinks per month or binge drinking; 3.8%, 0.9-14.4); psychosocial stress (1.30, 1.06-1.60; 4.6%, 2.1-9.6) and depression (1.35, 1.10-1.66; 5.2%, 2.7-9.8); cardiac causes (2.38, 1.77-3.20; 6.7%, 4.8-9.1); and ratio of apolipoproteins B to A1 (1.89, 1.49-2.40 for highest vs lowest tertile; 24.9%, 15.7-37.1). Collectively, these risk factors accounted for 88.1% (99% CI 82.3-92.2) of the PAR for all stroke. When an alternate definition of hypertension was used (history of hypertension or blood pressure >160/90 mm Hg), the combined PAR was 90.3% (85.3-93.7) for all stroke. These risk factors were all significant for ischaemic stroke, whereas hypertension, smoking, waist-to-hip ratio, diet, and alcohol intake were significant risk factors for intracerebral haemorrhagic stroke. Our findings suggest that ten risk factors are associated with 90% of the risk of stroke. Targeted interventions that reduce blood pressure and smoking, and promote physical activity and a healthy diet, could substantially reduce the burden of stroke. Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Canadian Stroke Network, Pfizer Cardiovascular Award, Merck, AstraZeneca, and Boehringer Ingelheim. Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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              Cryptogenic stroke and underlying atrial fibrillation.

              Current guidelines recommend at least 24 hours of electrocardiographic (ECG) monitoring after an ischemic stroke to rule out atrial fibrillation. However, the most effective duration and type of monitoring have not been established, and the cause of ischemic stroke remains uncertain despite a complete diagnostic evaluation in 20 to 40% of cases (cryptogenic stroke). Detection of atrial fibrillation after cryptogenic stroke has therapeutic implications. We conducted a randomized, controlled study of 441 patients to assess whether long-term monitoring with an insertable cardiac monitor (ICM) is more effective than conventional follow-up (control) for detecting atrial fibrillation in patients with cryptogenic stroke. Patients 40 years of age or older with no evidence of atrial fibrillation during at least 24 hours of ECG monitoring underwent randomization within 90 days after the index event. The primary end point was the time to first detection of atrial fibrillation (lasting >30 seconds) within 6 months. Among the secondary end points was the time to first detection of atrial fibrillation within 12 months. Data were analyzed according to the intention-to-treat principle. By 6 months, atrial fibrillation had been detected in 8.9% of patients in the ICM group (19 patients) versus 1.4% of patients in the control group (3 patients) (hazard ratio, 6.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.9 to 21.7; P<0.001). By 12 months, atrial fibrillation had been detected in 12.4% of patients in the ICM group (29 patients) versus 2.0% of patients in the control group (4 patients) (hazard ratio, 7.3; 95% CI, 2.6 to 20.8; P<0.001). ECG monitoring with an ICM was superior to conventional follow-up for detecting atrial fibrillation after cryptogenic stroke. (Funded by Medtronic; CRYSTAL AF number, NCT00924638.).

                Author and article information

                [a ]Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence to: Prof Peter M Rothwell, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, Oxford OX3 9DU, UKNuffield Department of Clinical NeurosciencesJohn Radcliffe HospitalHeadingtonOxfordOX3 9DUUK peter.rothwell@
                Lancet Neurol
                Lancet Neurol
                The Lancet. Neurology
                Lancet Pub. Group
                1 September 2015
                September 2015
                : 14
                : 9
                : 903-913
                © 2015 Li et al. Open Access article distributed under the terms of CC BY-NC-ND

                This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (




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