Patients Living in Impoverished Areas Have More Severe Ischemic Strokes
Background and Purpose—Initial stroke severity is one of the strongest predictors of eventual stroke outcome. However, predictors of initial stroke severity have not been well-described within a population. We hypothesized that poorer patients would have a higher initial stroke severity on presentation to medical attention.
Methods—We identified all cases of hospital-ascertained ischemic stroke occurring in 2005 within a biracial population of 1.3 million. “Community” socioecomic status was determined for each patient based on the percentage below poverty in the census tract in which the patient resided. Linear regression was used to model the effect of socioeconomic status on stroke severity. Models were adjusted for race, gender, age, prestroke disability, and history of medical comorbidities.
Results—There were 1895 ischemic stroke events detected in 2005 included in this analysis; 22% were black, 52% were female, and the mean age was 71 years (range, 19–104). The median National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale was 3 (range, 0–40). The poorest community socioeconomic status was associated with a significantly increased initial National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale by 1.5 points (95% confidence interval, 0.5–2.6; P<0.001) compared with the richest category in the univariate analysis, which increased to 2.2 points after adjustment for demographics and comorbidities.
Conclusions—We found that increasing community poverty was associated with worse stroke severity at presentation, independent of other known factors associated with stroke outcomes. Socioeconomic status may impact stroke severity via medication compliance, access to care, and cultural factors, or may be a proxy measure for undiagnosed disease states.
- Received January 5, 2012.
- Accepted April 27, 2012.
- © 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.