Cerebral infarction in young adults: The Baltimore-Washington Cooperative Young Stroke Study

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Few reports on stroke in young adults have included cases from all community and referral hospitals in a defined geographic region.


At 46 hospitals in Baltimore City, 5 central Maryland counties, and Washington, DC, the chart of every patient 15 to 44 years of age with a primary or secondary diagnosis of possible cerebral arterial infarction during 1988 and 1991 was abstracted. Probable and possible etiologies were assigned following written guidelines.


Of 428 first strokes, 212 (49.5%) were assigned at least one probable cause, 80 (18.7%) had no probable cause but at least one possible cause, and 136 (31.8%) had no identified probable or possible cause. Of the 212 with at least one probable cause, the distribution of etiologies was cardiac embolism(31.1%), hematologic and other (19.8%), small vessel (lacunar) disease(19.8%), nonatherosclerotic vasculopathy (11.3%), illicit drug use (9.4%), oral contraceptive use (5.2%), large artery atherosclerotic disease (3.8%), and migraine (1.4%). There were an additional 69 recurrent stroke patients.


In this hospital-based registry within a region characterized by racial/ethnic diversity, cardiac embolism, hematologic and other causes, and lacunar stroke were the most common etiologies of cerebral infarction in young adults. Nearly a third of both first and recurrent strokes had no identified cause.

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