Background: Pretreatment with statins has been shown to reduce brain injury in cerebral ischemia. In this controlled randomized study, we investigated the influence of statin pretreatment and its withdrawal on the outcome of acute ischemic stroke patients.
Methods: From 215 patients admitted within 24 hours of a hemispheric ischemic stroke, 89 patients on chronic statin treatment were randomly assigned either to statin withdrawal for the first 3 days after admission (n = 46) or to immediately receive atorvastatin 20 mg/day (n = 43). The primary outcome event was death or dependency (modified Rankin Scale [mRS] score > 2) at 3 months. Early neurologic deterioration (END) and infarct volume at days 4 to 7 were secondary outcome variables. In a secondary analysis, outcome variables were compared with the nonrandomized patients without previous statin therapy (n = 126).
Results: Patients with statin withdrawal showed a higher frequency of mRS score > 2 at the end of follow-up (60.0% vs 39.0%; p = 0.043), END (65.2% vs 20.9%; p < 0.0001), and greater infarct volume (74 [45, 126] vs 26 [12, 70] mL; p = 0.002) compared with the non-statin-withdrawal group. Statin withdrawal was associated with a 4.66 (1.46 to 14.91)-fold increase in the risk of death or dependency, a 8.67 (3.05 to 24.63)-fold increase in the risk of END, and an increase in mean infarct volume of 37.63 mL (SE 10.01; p < 0.001) after adjusting for age and baseline stroke severity. Compared with patients without previous treatment with statins, statin withdrawal was associated with a 19.01 (1.96 to 184.09)-fold increase in the risk of END and an increase in mean infarct volume of 43.51 mL (SE 21.91; p = 0.048).
Conclusion: Statin withdrawal is associated with increased risk of death or dependency at 90 days. Hence, this treatment should be continued in the acute phase of ischemic stroke.