Autoimmune thyroiditis as a risk factor for stroke: A historical cohort study

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Abstract

Objective:

To investigate the effect of autoimmune thyroiditis (AIT) on risk of stroke and to assess whether any increased risk (1) varied by AIT duration, and (2) was independent of classic cardiovascular risk factors.

Methods:

This was a large historical cohort study using data from The Health Improvement Network Database. Rates of first stroke during follow-up in thyroxine-treated patients with AIT (n = 34,907) were compared with those in matched individuals without AIT (n = 149,632) using random-effects Poisson regression models.

Results:

There was strong evidence for a slightly increased risk of stroke in patients with AIT (adjusted rate ratio = 1.10, 95% confidence interval: 1.01–1.20). The observed increase was partly independent of cardiovascular risk factors. Higher effect sizes were identified in the first year after AIT diagnosis (rate ratio = 1.33, 95% confidence interval: 1.14–1.56) but not in the long-term, consistent with a residual effect of hypothyroidism.

Conclusion:

Our results support the hypothesis of a slightly increased risk of stroke in patients with AIT. The higher effect size found soon after AIT diagnosis suggests an increased cardiovascular risk due to thyroid-hormone deficiency rather than a cumulative effect of autoimmune pathology. Better screening and early treatment of patients with asymptomatic hypothyroid AIT could help reduce excess risk of stroke in the first year after diagnosis.

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