Background: Stroke in young adults causes morbidity in this socioeconomically active age group. The etiologic frequency of ischemic stroke in young adults differs around the world.
Methods: The study population consisted of 314,000 'young adult' residents in Southern Khorasan province in Iran. All patients with stroke are routinely admitted to the Valie Asr tertiary care hospital. Data on patients demographics, clinical presentation and investigations of consecutive patients aged 15-45 years with ischemic stroke are registered in Southern Khorasan stroke data bank for the period March 2000 to March 2005. All patients underwent a standard battery of diagnostic investigations by a stroke neurologist. The etiologic classification of stroke in the patients was made based on the trial of ORG 10172 in acute stroke treatment (TOAST) criteria.
Results: One hundred and twenty-four patients (60 female, 64 male) were prospectively investigated during a 5-year period. The incidence of ischemic stroke in young adults was eight cases per 100,000 people per year. Cardioembolic mechanism comprised 54% of stroke etiology in young adults. Rheumatic valvular disease was present in 32% of the patients and caused 2.5 preventable stroke cases per 100,000 'young adults' per year.
Conclusion: Rheumatic valvular disease is the most common cause and a preventable etiology of stroke in Persian young adults.