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Stroke. 1996 Nov;27(11):1999-2004.

Precipitants of brain infarction. Roles of preceding infection/inflammation and recent psychological stress.

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Department of Neurology, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles 90033, USA.



Antecedent febrile infection and psychological stress are described as predisposing risk factors for brain infarction. We examined the temporal relationship between preceding infection/inflammation and stroke onset as well as the role of recent psychological stress as a potential precipitant for brain infarction.


In this case-control study, a standardized evaluation including a signs/symptoms-based questionnaire was used to characterize the prevalence and timing of recent prior (< 1 month) infectious and inflammatory syndromes in 37 adults with acute brain infarction, 47 community control subjects, and 34 hospitalized nonstroke neurological patient controls. Recent psychological stress was measured with scales of stressful life events and negative affect.


The prevalence of infection/inflammation was significantly higher in the stroke group only within the preceding 1 week compared with either community control subjects (13/37 versus 6/47, P < .02) or hospitalized neurological patient controls (3/34, P < .02). Upper respiratory tract infections constituted the most common type of infection. A substantial proportion of stroke patients with preceding (< 1 week) infection/inflammation (5/13) had no accompanying fever or chills. There were no significant differences between the stroke and control groups in the levels of stressful life events within the prior 1 month or in negative-affect scale scores within the prior 1 week.


Our data suggest that both febrile and nonfebrile infectious/inflammatory syndromes may be a common predisposing risk factor for brain infarction and that the period of increased risk is confined within a brief temporal window of less than 1 week. Results of this study argue against a role for recent psychological stress as a precipitant for cerebral infarction.

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