Background and purpose: Although patterns of stroke occurrence and mortality have been well studied, few epidemiological data are available regarding the clinical characteristics of stroke events.
Methods: We evaluated hospitalized stroke events reported in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study to describe the clinical characteristics of incident stroke. Confirmed stroke cases (n=474) were evaluated for stroke symptoms (headache, vertigo, gait disturbance, convulsions) and stroke signs (hemianopia, diplopia, speech deficits, paresis, paresthesia/sensory deficits) and their univariate associations with race, sex, and stroke subtype.
Results: Over 9.2 years of follow-up, 402 (85%) ischemic and 72 (15%) hemorrhagic strokes occurred. Frequency of stroke symptoms (95% CIs) were as follows: headache (27.4%; 23.4% to 31.4%), gait disturbance (10.8%; 7.9% to 13.6%), convulsions (4.4%; 2.6% to 6.3%), and vertigo (2.1%; 0.8% to 3.4%). Speech deficits occurred in 24.0% (20.2% to 27.9%), hemianopia in 14.6% (11.4% to 17.7%), and diplopia in 5.5% (3.4% to 7.5%) of cases. Most cases involved paresis (81.6%; 78.1% to 85.1%), while fewer cases experienced sensory deficits (44.5%; 40.0% to 49.0%). Blacks were more likely than whites to experience paresis (85.4% versus 78.2%; P=0.044). Men were more likely than women to experience a gait disturbance (14.4% versus 6.7%; P=0.007). Persons with hemorrhagic strokes had a higher proportion of headaches (55.6% versus 22.4%; P=0.001) and convulsions (11.1% versus 3.2%; P=0.003) than those with ischemic events, while speech and sensory deficits were more common in ischemic strokes (26.1% versus 12.5%, P=0.013, and 49.0% versus 19.4%, P=0.001, respectively).
Conclusions: We present epidemiological data concerning the clinical characteristics of incident stroke in a population-based cohort. Although minor differences by race, sex, and stroke subtype were observed, data from additional follow-up are required to confirm observed variations.