Objective: Previous studies have estimated that wake-up strokes comprise 8%to 28% of all ischemic strokes, but these studies were either small or not population-based. We sought to establish the proportion and event rate of wake-up strokes in a large population-based study and to compare patients who awoke with stroke symptoms with those who were awake at time of onset.
Methods: First-time and recurrent ischemic strokes among residents of the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region (population 1.3 million) in 2005 were identified using International Classification of Diseases-9 codes 430-436 and verified via study physician review. Ischemic strokes in patients aged 18 years and older presenting to an emergency department were included. Baseline characteristics were ascertained, along with discharge modified Rankin Scale scores and 90-day mortality.
Results: We identified 1,854 ischemic strokes presenting to an emergency department, of which 273 (14.3%) were wake-up strokes. There were no differences between wake-up strokes and all other strokes with regard to clinical features or outcomes except for minor differences in age and baseline retrospective NIH Stroke Scale score. The adjusted wake-up stroke event rate was 26.0/100,000. Of the wake-up strokes, at least 98 (35.9%) would have been eligible for thrombolysis if arrival time were not a factor.
Conclusions: Within our population, approximately 14% of ischemic strokes presenting to an emergency department were wake-up strokes. Wake-up strokes cannot be distinguished from other strokes by clinical features or outcome. We estimate that approximately 58,000 patients with wake-up strokes presented to an emergency department in the United States in 2005.