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BACKGROUND: To understand the mechanisms of stroke and to target prevention, we need to know how risk factors differ between etiological subtypes. Hospital-based studies may be biased because not all stroke patients are admitted. If risk factors differ between patients who are admitted and those who are not, then case-control studies will be biased. If the likelihood of admission also depends on stroke subtype, then case-case comparisons may also be biased. METHODS: We compared risk factors and ischemic stroke subtypes (TOAST classification) in hospitalized and nonhospitalized patients in 2 population-based stroke incidence studies: the Oxford Vascular Study (OXVASC) and Oxfordshire Community Stroke Project (OCSP). We also performed a meta-analysis of risk factor-stroke subtype associations with other published population-based studies. RESULTS: In OXVASC and OCSP, stroke subtypes differed between hospitalized (293 of 647) and nonhospitalized patients (P<0.0001), with more cardioembolic strokes (odds ratio [OR], 1.8; 95% CI, 1.3 to 2.6) and fewer lacunar strokes (OR, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.3 to 0.7). Premorbid blood pressure and cholesterol were higher in hospitalized patients (both P<0.0001). Risk factor-stroke subtype associations in hospitalized patients were consequently biased (P=0.001). Meta-analysis of data from all patients in OXVASC, OCSP, and 2 other studies demonstrated consistent risk factor-stroke subtype associations. However, contrary to previous hospital-based studies, there was only a weak (OR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.1 to 1.8) and inconsistent (P(heterogeneity)=0.01) association between small-vessel stroke and hypertension and no association with diabetes (OR, 1.0; 95% CI, 0.7 to 1.3). CONCLUSIONS: Prevalences of risk factors and stroke subtypes differ between hospitalized and nonhospitalized patients with ischemic stroke, which may bias hospital-based risk factor studies. Meta-analysis of population-based studies suggests that vascular risk factors differ between stroke subtypes.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





2050 - 2059


Age Distribution, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Bias, Brain Ischemia, Causality, Cohort Studies, Comorbidity, Female, Humans, Incidence, Inpatients, Male, Middle Aged, Odds Ratio, Outpatients, Prevalence, Risk Factors, Sex Distribution, Stroke, United Kingdom