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Stroke. 2012 Mar;43(3):782-6. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.620674. Epub 2012 Feb 2.

The types of neurological deficits might not justify withholding treatment in patients with low total National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale scores.

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  • 1Division of Cerebrovascular Diseases, Department of Neurology, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA.



There is controversy regarding the threshold for treating patients with mild strokes. Physicians often withhold acute treatment in these patients if they perceive the symptoms are not going to be disabling. We tested the appropriateness of this practice by analyzing the relationship between specific neurological deficits in the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score and long-term outcome among patients with a low total NIHSS score.


We performed a secondary analysis on those patients enrolled in the Trial of ORG 10172 in Acute Stroke Treatment that presented within 4.5 hours of symptom onset and had a baseline NIHSS score ≤6 (n=194). We performed multivariate logistic regression analyses using very favorable outcome at 3 months as the outcome variable and each of the individual items of the baseline NIHSS examination and syndromic combinations of NIHSS scores as predictors. The analyses were adjusted for potential confounders with and without adjusting for total NIHSS score.


Baseline total NIHSS scores were inversely associated with very favorable outcome at 3 months. No individual NIHSS item, or syndromic combination of NIHSS scores, was independently associated with very favorable outcome in a consistent manner after accounting for confounders and collinearity.


The types of neurological deficits in the baseline NIHSS are not independent predictors of long-term prognosis for patients with mild stroke. These exploratory findings argue against the practice of withholding reperfusion treatment in patients with mild stroke when the types of baseline NIHSS deficits are perceived to be nondisabling.

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