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Vasc Endovascular Surg. 2006 May-Jun;40(3):177-87.

Rapid high-volume population screening for three major risk factors of future stroke: phase I results.

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Department of General Surgery, Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, WA 98431-1100, USA.


Three proximate risk factors for stroke are carotid stenosis, atrial fibrillation, and hypertension. Phase I of this prospective study was designed to establish the prevalence of these conditions among a population of health maintenance organization beneficiaries by using a rapid screening protocol in order to risk-stratify patients for appropriate management and subsequent cohort analysis. Patients at a tertiary care medical center were screened for stroke risk by using directed history, a 3-minute carotid "quick-scan'' protocol, an EKG lead II rhythm strip, and bilateral arm blood pressures. Patients with any abnormal result underwent specific diagnostic consultation with vascular surgery, cardiology, or primary care. These evaluations included formal carotid duplex ultrasound, 12-lead EKG +/- Holter monitor, and 5-day blood pressure check. Patients were then stratified into risk cohorts for appropriate management and future analysis of stroke incidence and outcomes. In 8 hours on a single day in October 2002, 294 patients (mean age 69) were screened. Combining history with results of screening and diagnostic tests, the overall prevalence of carotid stenosis was 6% (n = 17/294), atrial fibrillation 7% (n = 21/294), and severe hypertension 5% (n = 16/294). Fifty-nine patients (20%) screened positive for carotid stenosis by "quick-scan,'' and 29% (n = 17/59) of these had confirmed stenosis (>50%) in 1 or both arteries by formal duplex. The prevalence of confirmed carotid stenosis was 37% among those screening positive for 1 artery (odds ratio [OR] 14.6; p<0.001) and 75% among those screening positive for both (OR 74.7; p<0.001). Significant independent predictors of carotid stenosis by multivariate analysis included coronary artery disease or myocardial infarction, smoking, stroke or transient ischemic attack, male gender, and white race (all p<0.05). The prevalence of confirmed stenosis was 10% with any 3 predictors alone (OR 2.5; p<0.05), 31% with any 4 (OR 21.2; p<0.001), and 50% with all 5 (OR 46.5; p<0.001). Thirty-three patients (11%) were found to have a previously unidentified and untreated arrhythmia, and 12% (n = 4/33) of these had confirmed new atrial fibrillation; 158 patients (54%) had moderate hypertension and 16 (5%) had severe hypertension (>180/100). Overall, 82% (n = 242/294) of patients screened required additional diagnostic tests. Based on these results, 11% (n = 31/294) of patients were stratified as high risk, 64% (n = 188/294) as moderate risk, and 25% (n = 75/294) as low risk for future stroke. Rapid and efficient screening of a large population for stroke risk factors is feasible. The prevalence of undiagnosed, unsurveilled, and untreated carotid stenosis, atrial fibrillation, and severe hypertension is significant, as 75% of patients screened had 1 or more confirmed major risk factors for stroke. Phase II of this study will investigate the degree of stroke risk reduction possible with a multidisciplinary approach to early identification and aggressive treatment of these risks.

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