Stroke: causes and clinical features
Murphy, Stephen JX
Werring, David J
Stroke is a clinically defined syndrome of acute, focal neurological deficit attributed to vascular injury (infarction, haemorrhage) of the central nervous system. Stroke is the second leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Stroke is not a single disease but can be caused by a wide range of risk factors, disease processes and mechanisms. Hypertension is the most important modifiable risk factor for stroke, although its contribution differs for different subtypes. Most (85%) strokes are ischaemic, predominantly caused by small vessel arteriolosclerosis, cardioembolism and large artery atherothromboembolism. Ischaemic strokes in younger patients can result from a different spectrum of causes such as extracranial dissection. Approximately 15% of strokes worldwide are the result of intracerebral haemorrhage, which can be deep (basal ganglia, brainstem), cerebellar or lobar. Deep haemorrhages usually result from deep perforator (hypertensive) arteriopathy (arteriolosclerosis), while lobar haemorrhages are mainly caused by cerebral amyloid angiopathy or arteriolosclerosis. A minority (about 20%) of intracerebral haemorrhages are caused by macrovascular lesions (vascular malformations, aneurysms, cavernomas), venous sinus thrombosis or rarer causes; these are particularly important in young patients (<50 years). Knowledge of vascular and cerebral anatomy is important in localizing strokes and understanding their mechanisms. This guides rational acute management, investigation, and secondary prevention.