A systematic review and synthesis of global stroke guidelines on behalf of the World Stroke Organization

Int J Stroke. 2023 Jun;18(5):499-531. doi: 10.1177/17474930231156753. Epub 2023 Mar 1.


Background: There are multiple stroke guidelines globally. To synthesize these and summarize what existing stroke guidelines recommend about the management of people with stroke, the World Stroke Organization (WSO) Guideline committee, under the auspices of the WSO, reviewed available guidelines.

Aims: To systematically review the literature to identify stroke guidelines (excluding primary stroke prevention and subarachnoid hemorrhage) since 1 January 2011, evaluate quality (The international Appraisal of Guidelines, Research and Evaluation (AGREE II)), tabulate strong recommendations, and judge applicability according to stroke care available (minimal, essential, advanced).

Summary of review: Searches identified 15,400 titles; 911 texts were retrieved, 200 publications scrutinized by the three subgroups (acute, secondary prevention, rehabilitation), and recommendations extracted from most recent version of relevant guidelines. For acute treatment, there were more guidelines about ischemic stroke than intracerebral hemorrhage; recommendations addressed pre-hospital, emergency, and acute hospital care. Strong recommendations were made for reperfusion therapies for acute ischemic stroke. For secondary prevention, strong recommendations included establishing etiological diagnosis; management of hypertension, weight, diabetes, lipids, and lifestyle modification; and for ischemic stroke, management of atrial fibrillation, valvular heart disease, left ventricular and atrial thrombi, patent foramen ovale, atherosclerotic extracranial large vessel disease, intracranial atherosclerotic disease, and antithrombotics in non-cardioembolic stroke. For rehabilitation, there were strong recommendations for organized stroke unit care, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, task-specific training, fitness training, and specific interventions for post-stroke impairments. Most recommendations were from high-income countries, and most did not consider comorbidity, resource implications, and implementation. Patient and public involvement was limited.

Conclusion: The review identified a number of areas of stroke care where there was strong consensus. However, there was extensive repetition and redundancy in guideline recommendations. Future guideline groups should consider closer collaboration to improve efficiency, include more people with lived experience in the development process, consider comorbidity, and advise on implementation.

Keywords: Stroke rehabilitation; acute stroke care; guidelines; secondary stroke prevention; stroke care.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation*
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Hypertension*
  • Ischemic Stroke*
  • Stroke* / therapy