Background: A few studies have comprehensively assessed the epidemiology, aetiology, prognosis, and secondary prevention of ischaemic stroke in young adults. To gain further information on this field, we have prospectively studied a hospital-based series of young adults with a first-ever episode of cerebral ischaemia (CI).
Methods: Sixty consecutive patients aged 17-45 with ischaemic stroke (55 patients) or transient ischaemic attack within 24 h before hospital admission were recruited and investigated by a standardized rigorous protocol. The patients were followed up for >or=1 year after hospital discharge. Arbitrary doses of aspirin 100 mg/d or ticlopidine 250 mg b.i.d. in case of intolerance to aspirin were given for the secondary prevention. Adjusted-dose oral anticoagulation (INR target 2.5) was used in the presence of cardioembolism or hypercoagulable states. Endpoints included the residual disability, rated by modified Rankin Scale (RS) and Barthel Index (BI), and poststroke recurrence.
Results: CI was associated with two or more risk factors in 61.6% of patients. Cigarette smoking was more frequently associated with male gender (p < 0.05) and migraine history with female sex (p < 0.05). The atherothrombotic diagnostic subtype and the subtype from 'other cause' predominated significantly among patients >or=35 years old (p < 0.05) and <35 years (p < 0.025), respectively. The 'other cause' subset was more frequent in female gender (p < 0.05). Transoesophageal echocardiography (TEE) detected potential cardiac sources of emboli (PCSE) at an extent 3 times higher (p < 0.0001) than transthoracic echocardiography. Congenital heart defects were nearly threefold more frequent than acquired ones, with a prevalence of patent foramen ovale. At a mean of 6.1 +/- 2.6 years (confidence interval 5.4 to 6.8), follow-up data were available for only 54 patients, since five patients were lost and one died in the acute phase. Poststroke recurrence rate was low (7.4%) and no event was fatal. General handicap was severe to moderately severe (RS>3) in 11% of the patients, slight to moderate (1>or=RS<or=3) in 59% and absent in 30% (RS = 0). Functional disability was relatively low with 50% of the patients independent (BI >or=95), 38.9% partially dependent (BI 60 to 86), and 11.1% fully dependent (BI <60). Thirty-seven (68.5%) patients returned to work, although adjustments (other job or part-time employment) were necessary for 10 out of them (27%).
Conclusions: The present study, though limited by the relatively small number of subjects, suggests that the overall prognosis of ischaemic stroke in young adults is good. We strongly recommend TEE in all patients with ischaemic stroke as an essential tool to increase the detection of PCSE and make the therapeutic approach more efficient.
Copyright 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel