Cryptogenic stroke: Contemporary trends, treatments, and outcomes in the United States

Neurol Clin Pract. 2020 Oct;10(5):396-405. doi: 10.1212/CPJ.0000000000000736.


Background: Nationwide data on patients with cryptogenic stroke (CS) are lacking. We evaluated patient and hospital characteristics, in-hospital treatments, and discharge outcomes among patients with CS compared with other subtypes in the Get With The Guidelines (GWTG)-Stroke registry.

Methods: We identified patients with ischemic stroke (IS) admitted to GWTG-Stroke participating hospitals between January 1, 2016, and September 30, 2017, with documented National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) scale and stroke etiology (cardioembolic [CE], large artery atherosclerosis [LAA], small vessel occlusion [SVO], other determined etiology [OTH], or CS). Using multivariable logistic regression, we compared hospital treatments and discharge outcomes by subtype, adjusted for patient and hospital characteristics.

Results: Among 316,623 patients from 1,687 hospitals, there were 63,301 (20.0%) patients with CS. In multivariable analysis, patients with CS received IV thrombolysis more often than other subtypes and had lower mortality than CE, LAA, and OTH but higher mortality than SVO. They were more likely to be discharged home than all other subtypes and be independent at discharge than LAA, OTH, or SVO.

Conclusions: In a large contemporary nationwide registry, CS accounted for 20% of ISs among patients with a documented stroke etiology. Patients with CS had a distinct profile of treatments and outcomes relative to other subtypes. Improved subtype documentation and further research into CS are warranted to improve care and outcomes for patients with stroke.