Confounding by Pre-Morbid Functional Status in Studies of Apparent Sex Differences in Severity and Outcome of Stroke
Background and Purpose—Several studies have reported unexplained worse outcomes after stroke in women but none included the full spectrum of symptomatic ischemic cerebrovascular events while adjusting for prior handicap.
Methods—Using a prospective population-based incident cohort of all transient ischemic attack/stroke (OXVASC [Oxford Vascular Study]) recruited between April 2002 and March 2014, we compared pre-morbid and post-event modified Rankin Scale score (mRS) in women and men and change in mRS score 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years after stroke. Baseline stroke-related neurological impairment was measured with the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale.
Results—Among 2553 patients (50.6% women) with a first transient ischemic attack/ischemic stroke, women had a worse handicap 1 month after ischemic stroke (age-adjusted odds ratio for mRS score, 1.35; 95% confidence interval, 1.12–1.63). However, women also had a higher pre-morbid mRS score compared with men (age-adjusted odds ratio, 1.58; 95% confidence interval, 1.36–1.84). There was no difference in stroke severity when adjusting for age and pre-morbid mRS (odds ratio, 1.10; 95% confidence interval, 0.90–1.35) and no difference in the pre-/post-stroke change in mRS at 1 month (age-adjusted odds ratio, 1.00; 95% confidence interval, 0.82–1.21), 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years. Women had a lower mortality rate, and there was no sex difference in risk of recurrent stroke.
Conclusions—We found no evidence of a worse outcome of stroke in women when adjusting for age and pre-morbid mRS. Failure to account for sex differences in pre-morbid handicap could explain contradictory findings in previous studies. Properties of the mRS may also contribute to these inconsistencies.
- Received May 24, 2017.
- Revision received July 11, 2017.
- Accepted July 20, 2017.
- © 2017 The Authors.
Stroke is published on behalf of the American Heart Association, Inc., by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that the original work is properly cited.