Objectives: Women may have poorer outcomes after stroke than men because of differences in their acute management. We examined sex differences in presentation, severity, in-hospital treatment, and early mortality in a cohort of first-ever-in-a-lifetime stroke patients.
Methods: Data were collected from May 1, 1996, to April 30, 1999, in the North East Melbourne Stroke Incidence Study. Stroke symptoms, prestroke medical history, in-hospital investigations, admission and discharge medications, initial stroke severity, and 28-day mortality were recorded. Multivariable regression was used to estimate sex differences in treatment, investigations, and 28-day mortality.
Results: A total of 1,316 patients were included. Women were older (mean age 76 +/- 0.6 vs 72 +/- 0.6, p < 0.01), had more severe strokes (median NIH Stroke Scale score 6 vs 5, p < 0.01), and more likely to experience loss of consciousness (31% vs 23%, p = 0.003) and incontinence (22% vs 11%, p = 0.01) than men. Women were less often on lipid-lowering therapy on admission. Echocardiography and carotid investigations were less frequently performed in women due to greater age and stroke severity. Women had greater 28-day mortality (32% vs 21%, p < 0.001) and stroke severity (44% vs 36%, p = 0.01) than men, but adjustment for age, comorbidities, and stroke severity (for mortality only) completely attenuated these associations.
Conclusion: Sex differences seen in this study were mostly explained by women's older age, greater comorbidity, and stroke severity. The reasons for differences according to age may need further examination.