Reliable data on stroke incidence and prevalence are essential for calculating the burden of stroke and the planning of prevention and treatment of stroke patients. In the current study we have reviewed the published data from EU countries, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland, and provide WHO estimates for stroke incidence and prevalence in these countries. Studies on stroke epidemiology published in peer-reviewed journals during the past 10 years were identified using Medline/PubMed searches, and reviewed using the structure of WHO's stroke component of the WHO InfoBase. WHO estimates for stroke incidence and prevalence for each country were calculated from routine mortality statistics. Rates from studies that met the 'ideal' criteria were compared with WHO's estimates. Forty-four incidence studies and 12 prevalence studies were identified. There were several methodological differences that hampered comparisons of data. WHO stroke estimates were in good agreement with results from 'ideal' stroke population studies. According to the WHO estimates the number of stroke events in these selected countries is likely to increase from 1.1 million per year in 2000 to more than 1.5 million per year in 2025 solely because of the demographic changes. Until better and more stroke studies are available, the WHO stroke estimates may provide the best data for understanding the stroke burden in countries where no stroke data currently exists. A standardized protocol for stroke surveillance is recommended.