Background: There is marked variability in the reported stroke rates among persons with heart failure (HF). We performed a meta-analysis to provide summary estimates of the stroke rate in HF and to explain heterogeneity in the existing literature. We will summarize the ischemic stroke rate at various time points during follow-up among adults with chronic heart failure.
Methods and results: A systematic review of the electronic literature in Medline and PubMed as well as hand searching of the reference lists of identified articles and of the meeting abstracts for the 1995-2004 American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association scientific sessions was performed to identify qualifying studies. Articles were included if they included a population with chronic HF and reported the number (or percent) of persons with HF who experienced an ischemic stroke during follow-up. Studies were excluded if the study population included > or = 50% of persons with acute (postmyocardial infarction) HF, or if > or = 50% of the study population required artificial support with a ventricular assist device or parenteral inotropic medications. Case reports, case series, and nonoriginal research articles were not included. Determination of study eligibility and data extraction were conducted by 2 independent reviewers using standardized forms. Results are reported as stroke rate per 1000 cases of HF, with 95% Poisson confidence intervals. Pooled estimates of the stroke rate were calculated with fixed and random effects models. Heterogeneity was explored according to a priori specified subgroup analyses. Overall, 26 studies met inclusion criteria. Eighteen of every 1000 persons suffered a stroke during the first year after the diagnosis of HF. The stroke rate increased to a maximum of 47.4 per 1000 at 5 years. Studies with fewer women, those conducted in 1990 or earlier, and cohort studies reported higher stroke rates than studies with more women, those conducted after 1990, and clinical trials.
Conclusions: Stroke is an important complication among persons with HF. Variability among reported stroke rates can be explained in part by differences in study design, patient population, and HF standards of care at the time of the study. Despite the heterogeneity in reported stroke rates, this meta-analysis shows that stroke prevention in HF represents an opportunity to prevent morbidity and save many lives in this highly fatal disease.