Trends in prevalence of acute stroke impairments: A population-based cohort study using the South London Stroke Register

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Background Acute stroke impairments often result in poor long-term outcome for stroke survivors. The aim of this study was to estimate the trends over time in the prevalence of these acute stroke impairments. Methods and findings All first-ever stroke patients recorded in the South London Stroke Register (SLSR) between 2001 and 2018 were included in this cohort study. Multivariable Poisson regression models with robust error variance were used to estimate the adjusted prevalence of 8 acute impairments, across six 3-year time cohorts. Prevalence ratios comparing impairments over time were also calculated, stratified by age, sex, ethnicity, and aetiological classification (Trial of Org 10172 in Acute Stroke Treatment [TOAST]). A total of 4,683 patients had a stroke between 2001 and 2018. Mean age was 68.9 years, 48% were female, and 64% were White. After adjustment for demographic factors, pre-stroke risk factors, and stroke subtype, the prevalence of 3 out of the 8 acute impairments declined during the 18-year period, including limb motor deficit (from 77% [95% CI 74%–81%] to 62% [56%–68%], p < 0.001), dysphagia (37% [33%–41%] to 15% [12%–20%], p < 0.001), and urinary incontinence (43% [39%–47%) to 29% [24%–35%], p < 0.001). Declines in limb impairment over time were 2 times greater in men than women (prevalence ratio 0.73 [95% CI 0.64–0.84] and 0.87 [95% CI 0.77–0.98], respectively). Declines also tended to be greater in younger patients. Stratified by TOAST classification, the prevalence of all impairments was high for large artery atherosclerosis (LAA), cardioembolism (CE), and stroke of undetermined aetiology. Conversely, small vessel occlusions (SVOs) had low levels of all impairments except for limb motor impairment and dysarthria. While we have assessed 8 key acute stroke impairments, this study is limited by a focus on physical impairments, although cognitive impairments are equally important to understand. In addition, this is an inner-city cohort, which has unique characteristics compared to other populations. Conclusions In this study, we found that stroke patients in the SLSR had a complexity of acute impairments, of which limb motor deficit, dysphagia, and incontinence have declined between 2001 and 2018. These reductions have not been uniform across all patient groups, with women and the older population, in particular, seeing fewer reductions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1003366
Pages (from-to)1-16
JournalPLoS Medicine
Issue number10
Early online date9 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


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