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Am J Epidemiol. 2002 Dec 1;156(11):1062-9.

Comparison of active and passive surveillance for cerebrovascular disease: The Brain Attack Surveillance in Corpus Christi (BASIC) Project.

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  • 1Stroke Program, Department of Neurology, University of Texas at Houston, USA.


To provide a scientific rationale for choosing an optimal stroke surveillance method, the authors compared active surveillance with passive surveillance. The methods involved ascertaining cerebrovascular events that occurred in Nueces County, Texas, during calendar year 2000. Active methods utilized screening of hospital and emergency department logs and routine visiting of hospital wards and out-of-hospital sources. Passive means relied on International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9), discharge codes for case ascertainment. Cases were validated by fellowship-trained stroke neurologists on the basis of published criteria. The results showed that, of the 6,236 events identified through both active and passive surveillance, 802 were validated to be cerebrovascular events. When passive surveillance alone was used, 209 (26.1%) cases were missed, including 73 (9.1%) cases involving hospital admission and 136 (17.0%) out-of-hospital strokes. Through active surveillance alone, 57 (7.1%) cases were missed. The positive predictive value of active surveillance was 12.2%. Among the 2,099 patients admitted to a hospital, passive surveillance using ICD-9 codes missed 73 cases of cerebrovascular disease and mistakenly included 222 noncases. There were 57 admitted hospital cases missed by active surveillance, including 13 not recognized because of human error. This study provided a quantitative means of assessing the utility of active and passive surveillance for cerebrovascular disease. More uniform surveillance methods would allow comparisons across studies and communities.

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