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Prevalence of Triggering Factors in Acute Stroke: Hospital-based Observational Cross-sectional Study

      Background

      Although chronic risk factors for stroke are reasonably well understood, the acute precipitants, or triggers, of stroke relatively remain understudied. Identification of particular time periods during which stroke risk is elevated could prove a valuable strategy to reduce stroke incidence through the introduction of appropriate prevention strategies during a period of vulnerability. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of trigger factors in acute stroke patients and to investigate the association of the presence of trigger factors with initial stroke severity at presentation (National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score in ischemic stroke patients and volume of hematoma in hemorrhagic stroke patients).

      Methods

      This was a hospital-based observational cross-sectional study. All consecutive patients of recent stroke (reporting within 1 week of stroke onset) were included in the study. This study examined the prevalence of 11 predefined triggers (including both well-established and potential triggers) in predefined hazard periods.

      Results

      In total, 290 patients participated in the study. Presence of any trigger factor out of 11 trigger factors studied was seen in 128 (44.2%) of 290 patients, 104 (46.4%) of 224 ischemic stroke patients and 24 (36.4%) of 66 hemorrhagic stroke patients. Psychological stress was present in 51 (17.6%) patients, among psychological stress: stressful life event in 34 (11.7%), negative affect in 17 (5.9%), acute alcohol abuse in 31 (10.7%), clinical infections in 24 (8.3%), and anger and coffee intake in 12 (4.1%) each. Sexual activity, trauma, and surgery were present in 5 (1.7%), 4 (1.4%), and 5 (1.7%) patients, respectively. None of the patients reported exposure to recreational drug abuse, startling event, and unusual vigorous physical exertion in hazard periods. Two or more trigger factors were present in 16 (5.5%) patients. Clinical variables independently associated with the presence of trigger factors in acute stroke after multivariate analysis were younger age (<60 years) and stroke severity at initial presentation (ie, higher NIHSS score and higher hematoma volume).

      Conclusions

      Trigger factors were present in 44.2% of acute stroke patients. Psychological stress (17.6%), acute alcohol abuse (10.7%), and clinical infections (8.3%) were the most common triggers. Younger age (<60 years) and stroke severity at initial presentation were independently associated with the presence of trigger factors in acute stroke patients. However, these associations need to be further explored in community-based studies.

      Key Words

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