Embolic Strokes of Undetermined Source in the Athens Stroke Registry: A Descriptive Analysis

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Background and Purpose—

A new clinical construct termed embolic stroke of undetermined source (ESUS) was recently introduced, but no such population has been described yet. Our aim is to provide a detailed descriptive analysis of an ESUS population derived from a large prospective ischemic stroke registry using the proposed diagnostic criteria.


The criteria proposed by the Cryptogenic Stroke/ESUS International Working Group were applied to the Athens Stroke Registry to identify all ESUS patients. ESUS was defined as a radiologically confirmed nonlacunar brain infarct in the absence of (a) extracranial or intracranial atherosclerosis causing ≥50% luminal stenosis in arteries supplying the ischemic area, (b) major-risk cardioembolic source, and (c) any other specific cause of stroke.


Among 2735 patients admitted between 1992 and 2011, 275 (10.0%) were classified as ESUS. In the majority of ESUS (74.2%), symptoms were maximal at onset. ESUS were of moderate severity (median National Institute Health Stroke Scale score, 5). The most prevalent risk factor was arterial hypertension (64.7%), and 50.9% of patients were dyslipidemic. Among potential causes of the ESUS, covert atrial fibrillation (AF) was the most prevalent: in 30 (10.9%) patients, AF was diagnosed during hospitalization for stroke recurrence, whereas in 50 (18.2%) patients AF was detected after repeated ECG monitoring during follow-up. Also, covert AF was strongly suggested in 38 patients (13.8%) but never recorded.


About 10% of patients with first-ever ischemic stroke met criteria for ESUS; covert paroxysmal AF seems to be a frequent cause of ESUS.

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