Nonfocal Symptoms in Patients with Transient Ischemic Attack or Ischemic Stroke: Occurrence, Clinical Determinants, and Association with Cardiac History

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Background: Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) accompanied by nonfocal symptoms are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular events, in particular cardiac events. Reported frequencies of TIAs accompanied by nonfocal symptoms range from 18 to 53%. We assessed the occurrence of nonfocal symptoms in patients with TIA or minor ischemic stroke in a neurological outpatient clinic in terms of clinical determinants, cardiac history, and atrial fibrillation (AF). Methods: We included 1,265 consecutive patients with TIA or minor stroke who visited the outpatient clinic. During these visits, we systematically asked for nonfocal symptoms. Nonfocal symptoms included decreased consciousness, amnesia, positive visual phenomena, non-rotatory dizziness, and paresthesias. Relative risks for the presence of nonfocal symptoms in relation to clinical determinants, AF, and cardiac history were calculated. Results: In 243 (19%) of 1,265 patients, TIA or minor ischemic stroke was accompanied by one or more nonfocal symptoms. Non-rotatory dizziness, paresthesia, and amnesia were the most common nonfocal symptoms. In patients with an event of the posterior circulation or obesity, the qualifying TIA or minor stroke was more frequently accompanied by nonfocal symptoms, and in patients with significant carotid stenosis, nonfocal symptoms occurred less frequently. AF was related only with amnesia. Conclusion: Nonfocal symptoms are present in one out of 5 patients with TIA or ischemic stroke, in particular when located in the posterior circulation. A cardiac history or AF was not directly related to nonfocal symptoms. A heterogeneous etiology is suggested.

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