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Original Investigation
February 2016

Definition and Implications of the Preventable Stroke

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Neurology, University of California Irvine
  • 2Department of Nursing Quality, Research, & Education, University of California Irvine Medical Center, Orange
JAMA Neurol. 2016;73(2):186-189. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.3587

Importance  Although patients with acute stroke are routinely evaluated for potential treatment (ie, treatability of the stroke), preventability of the presenting stroke is generally not seriously considered.

Objective  To systematically analyze stroke preventability.

Design, Setting, and Participants  We evaluated medical records of 274 consecutive patients discharged with a diagnosis of ischemic stroke between December 2, 2010, and June 11, 2012, at the University of California Irvine Medical Center. Mean (SE) patient age was 67.2 (0.8) years. Data analysis was conducted from July 3, 2014, to August 4, 2015.

Exposures  Medical records were systematically examined for demographic information, stroke risk factors, stroke severity, and acute stroke treatment.

Main Outcomes and Measures  We defined stroke preventability as the degree to which the patient’s presenting stroke was preventable. Using variables easily determined at onset of stroke, we developed a 10-point scale (0, not preventable; 10, most preventable) to classify the degree of stroke preventability. Our focus was effectiveness of treatment of hypertension (0-2 points), hyperlipidemia (0-2 points), and atrial fibrillation (0-4 points), as well as use of antithrombotic treatment for known prior cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease (0-2 points).

Results  Total risk scores ranged from 0 to 8 (mean [SE], 2.2 [0.1]), with 207 patients (75.5%) exhibiting some degree of preventability (score of 1 or higher). Seventy-one patients (25.9%) had scores of 4 or higher, indicating that the stroke was highly preventable. Severity of stroke as determined by the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale score was not related to preventability of stroke. However, 21 of 71 patients (29.6%) whose stroke was highly preventable were treated with intravenous or intra-arterial acute stroke therapy while these treatments were provided for only 13 of 67 patients (19.4%) with scores of 0 (no preventability) and 19 of 136 patients (14.0%) with scores of 1 to 3 (low preventability) (P = .03).

Conclusions and Relevance  Most patients with acute stroke exhibited some degree of preventability. Preventability and treatment of stroke were significantly associated, indicating that the most preventable strokes paradoxically were more likely to receive acute treatment.