Background: There have been few studies of the long-term prognosis of young adults with ischemic stroke. The present study aimed to evaluate the long-term clinical outcome in a large series of young adults with ischemic stroke admitted to a tertiary medical center over the last 27 years, and to identify possible predictors for mortality, stroke recurrence and poor functional recovery.
Methods: We retrospectively reviewed 272 young adults (15-45 years) with a first-ever ischemic stroke admitted to the Neurology Department of University Hospital "12 de Octubre" between 1974 and 2001. Follow-up assessments were performed by review of medical records and telephone interviews.
Results: Nine patients (3%) died as the result of their initial stroke and follow-up information about the status of 23 (8%) patients was not available. The remaining 240 patients (89%) were followed. Two hundred and ten of them (88%) were alive with a mean follow-up of 12.3 years and 30 (12%) died during follow-up. The average annual mortality rate was 1.4%, being notably higher during the first (4.9%) than in the subsequent years (0.9%) after the initial stroke. Ninety per cent of the followed patients were independent and 53% returned to work, although adjustments were necessary for 23% of them. The annual stroke recurrence rate during the first year was 3.6% dropping to 1.7% in subsequent years. Age over 35 years, male gender, the presence of cardiovascular risk factors and large-artery atherosclerosis in the carotid territory were predictors of negative long-term outcome after the initial stroke.
Conclusions: The long-term prognosis for the ischemic stroke in the young is better than in the elderly, but the risk of mortality in young adults with ischemic stroke is much higher than in the general population of the same age. A bad prognosis is associated with an atherosclerotic risk profile, with a higher mortality and recurrent stroke rates and poorer functional recovery. The main functional limitation in the young survivors of their initial ischemic stroke occurs in work activity, since most patients are independent but almost half of them do not return to work.