Heart Patients at High Post-Hospital Stroke Risk

Study suggests more aggressive therapies are warranted

MONDAY, June 13, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- People who've been hospitalized with chest pain or symptoms of a heart attack are also at increased risk of stroke after discharge, a new study finds.

"In spite of current therapy, their stroke risk is substantially higher than that of the general population," study co-author Keith A. A. Fox, a professor of cardiology, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, said in a prepared statement.

Conditions such as heart attack, chest pain and unstable angina are caused by insufficient blood supply to the heart muscle, a condition generally called acute coronary syndrome (ACS). Experts have long known that heart attack patients are an increased risk of stroke, but there's been little research into their actual stroke incidence and outcome.

In the study, published in the June 14 issue of Circulation, researchers studied international data on more than 35,000 patients admitted to hospital with ACS. The patients were tracked for six months after discharge from the hospital.

Within six months of being admitted to hospital, 1.6 percent of the ACS patients suffered a stroke. About half those strokes occurred while patients were still in the hospital. Patients who had a stroke while in the hospital were six times more likely to have another stroke after being discharged from hospital care.

The study found that 32.6 percent of in-hospital strokes were fatal, compared with nearly 21 percent of strokes suffered after hospital discharge.

"Stroke risk needs to be in the mind of cardiologists following patients after ACS," Fox said. Doctors who treat ACS patients may want to be more aggressive in their use of anti-clotting and antihypertensive medications to lower this stroke risk, the British expert said.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about acute coronary syndrome.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, June 13, 2005
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