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Concept: Stroke


Background The most appropriate targets for systolic blood pressure to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality among persons without diabetes remain uncertain. Methods We randomly assigned 9361 persons with a systolic blood pressure of 130 mm Hg or higher and an increased cardiovascular risk, but without diabetes, to a systolic blood-pressure target of less than 120 mm Hg (intensive treatment) or a target of less than 140 mm Hg (standard treatment). The primary composite outcome was myocardial infarction, other acute coronary syndromes, stroke, heart failure, or death from cardiovascular causes. Results At 1 year, the mean systolic blood pressure was 121.4 mm Hg in the intensive-treatment group and 136.2 mm Hg in the standard-treatment group. The intervention was stopped early after a median follow-up of 3.26 years owing to a significantly lower rate of the primary composite outcome in the intensive-treatment group than in the standard-treatment group (1.65% per year vs. 2.19% per year; hazard ratio with intensive treatment, 0.75; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.64 to 0.89; P<0.001). All-cause mortality was also significantly lower in the intensive-treatment group (hazard ratio, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.60 to 0.90; P=0.003). Rates of serious adverse events of hypotension, syncope, electrolyte abnormalities, and acute kidney injury or failure, but not of injurious falls, were higher in the intensive-treatment group than in the standard-treatment group. Conclusions Among patients at high risk for cardiovascular events but without diabetes, targeting a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 mm Hg, as compared with less than 140 mm Hg, resulted in lower rates of fatal and nonfatal major cardiovascular events and death from any cause, although significantly higher rates of some adverse events were observed in the intensive-treatment group. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health; number, NCT01206062 .).

Concepts: Blood, Myocardial infarction, Atherosclerosis, Hypertension, Stroke, Blood pressure, Artery, Orthostatic hypotension


Background Among patients with a proximal vessel occlusion in the anterior circulation, 60 to 80% of patients die within 90 days after stroke onset or do not regain functional independence despite alteplase treatment. We evaluated rapid endovascular treatment in addition to standard care in patients with acute ischemic stroke with a small infarct core, a proximal intracranial arterial occlusion, and moderate-to-good collateral circulation. Methods We randomly assigned participants to receive standard care (control group) or standard care plus endovascular treatment with the use of available thrombectomy devices (intervention group). Patients with a proximal intracranial occlusion in the anterior circulation were included up to 12 hours after symptom onset. Patients with a large infarct core or poor collateral circulation on computed tomography (CT) and CT angiography were excluded. Workflow times were measured against predetermined targets. The primary outcome was the score on the modified Rankin scale (range, 0 [no symptoms] to 6 [death]) at 90 days. A proportional odds model was used to calculate the common odds ratio as a measure of the likelihood that the intervention would lead to lower scores on the modified Rankin scale than would control care (shift analysis). Results The trial was stopped early because of efficacy. At 22 centers worldwide, 316 participants were enrolled, of whom 238 received intravenous alteplase (120 in the intervention group and 118 in the control group). In the intervention group, the median time from study CT of the head to first reperfusion was 84 minutes. The rate of functional independence (90-day modified Rankin score of 0 to 2) was increased with the intervention (53.0%, vs. 29.3% in the control group; P<0.001). The primary outcome favored the intervention (common odds ratio, 2.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.7 to 3.8; P<0.001), and the intervention was associated with reduced mortality (10.4%, vs. 19.0% in the control group; P=0.04). Symptomatic intracerebral hemorrhage occurred in 3.6% of participants in intervention group and 2.7% of participants in control group (P=0.75). Conclusions Among patients with acute ischemic stroke with a proximal vessel occlusion, a small infarct core, and moderate-to-good collateral circulation, rapid endovascular treatment improved functional outcomes and reduced mortality. (Funded by Covidien and others; ESCAPE number, NCT01778335 .).

Concepts: Stroke, Modified Rankin Scale, Barthel scale


Objectives To investigate the association between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular disease at higher resolution by examining the initial lifetime presentation of 12 cardiac, cerebrovascular, abdominal, or peripheral vascular diseases among five categories of consumption.Design Population based cohort study of linked electronic health records covering primary care, hospital admissions, and mortality in 1997-2010 (median follow-up six years).Setting CALIBER (ClinicAl research using LInked Bespoke studies and Electronic health Records).Participants 1 937 360 adults (51% women), aged ≥30 who were free from cardiovascular disease at baseline.Main outcome measures 12 common symptomatic manifestations of cardiovascular disease, including chronic stable angina, unstable angina, acute myocardial infarction, unheralded coronary heart disease death, heart failure, sudden coronary death/cardiac arrest, transient ischaemic attack, ischaemic stroke, intracerebral and subarachnoid haemorrhage, peripheral arterial disease, and abdominal aortic aneurysm.Results 114 859 individuals received an incident cardiovascular diagnosis during follow-up. Non-drinking was associated with an increased risk of unstable angina (hazard ratio 1.33, 95% confidence interval 1.21 to 1.45), myocardial infarction (1.32, 1.24 to1.41), unheralded coronary death (1.56, 1.38 to 1.76), heart failure (1.24, 1.11 to 1.38), ischaemic stroke (1.12, 1.01 to 1.24), peripheral arterial disease (1.22, 1.13 to 1.32), and abdominal aortic aneurysm (1.32, 1.17 to 1.49) compared with moderate drinking (consumption within contemporaneous UK weekly/daily guidelines of 21/3 and 14/2 units for men and women, respectively). Heavy drinking (exceeding guidelines) conferred an increased risk of presenting with unheralded coronary death (1.21, 1.08 to 1.35), heart failure (1.22, 1.08 to 1.37), cardiac arrest (1.50, 1.26 to 1.77), transient ischaemic attack (1.11, 1.02 to 1.37), ischaemic stroke (1.33, 1.09 to 1.63), intracerebral haemorrhage (1.37, 1.16 to 1.62), and peripheral arterial disease (1.35; 1.23 to 1.48), but a lower risk of myocardial infarction (0.88, 0.79 to 1.00) or stable angina (0.93, 0.86 to 1.00).Conclusions Heterogeneous associations exist between level of alcohol consumption and the initial presentation of cardiovascular diseases. This has implications for counselling patients, public health communication, and clinical research, suggesting a more nuanced approach to the role of alcohol in prevention of cardiovascular disease is necessary.Registration (NCT01864031).

Concepts: Myocardial infarction, Atherosclerosis, Angina pectoris, Cardiology, Heart, Cardiovascular disease, Stroke, Cardiovascular diseases


Background Although many patients with venous thromboembolism require extended treatment, it is uncertain whether it is better to use full- or lower-intensity anticoagulation therapy or aspirin. Methods In this randomized, double-blind, phase 3 study, we assigned 3396 patients with venous thromboembolism to receive either once-daily rivaroxaban (at doses of 20 mg or 10 mg) or 100 mg of aspirin. All the study patients had completed 6 to 12 months of anticoagulation therapy and were in equipoise regarding the need for continued anticoagulation. Study drugs were administered for up to 12 months. The primary efficacy outcome was symptomatic recurrent fatal or nonfatal venous thromboembolism, and the principal safety outcome was major bleeding. Results A total of 3365 patients were included in the intention-to-treat analyses (median treatment duration, 351 days). The primary efficacy outcome occurred in 17 of 1107 patients (1.5%) receiving 20 mg of rivaroxaban and in 13 of 1127 patients (1.2%) receiving 10 mg of rivaroxaban, as compared with 50 of 1131 patients (4.4%) receiving aspirin (hazard ratio for 20 mg of rivaroxaban vs. aspirin, 0.34; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.20 to 0.59; hazard ratio for 10 mg of rivaroxaban vs. aspirin, 0.26; 95% CI, 0.14 to 0.47; P<0.001 for both comparisons). Rates of major bleeding were 0.5% in the group receiving 20 mg of rivaroxaban, 0.4% in the group receiving 10 mg of rivaroxaban, and 0.3% in the aspirin group; the rates of clinically relevant nonmajor bleeding were 2.7%, 2.0%, and 1.8%, respectively. The incidence of adverse events was similar in all three groups. Conclusions Among patients with venous thromboembolism in equipoise for continued anticoagulation, the risk of a recurrent event was significantly lower with rivaroxaban at either a treatment dose (20 mg) or a prophylactic dose (10 mg) than with aspirin, without a significant increase in bleeding rates. (Funded by Bayer Pharmaceuticals; EINSTEIN CHOICE number, NCT02064439 .).

Concepts: Clinical trial, Blood, Stroke, Thrombosis, Warfarin, Dose, Aspirin, Bayer


Background In patients with ischemic stroke, endovascular treatment results in a higher rate of recanalization of the affected cerebral artery than systemic intravenous thrombolytic therapy. However, comparison of the clinical efficacy of the two approaches is needed. Methods We randomly assigned 362 patients with acute ischemic stroke, within 4.5 hours after onset, to endovascular therapy (intraarterial thrombolysis with recombinant tissue plasminogen activator [t-PA], mechanical clot disruption or retrieval, or a combination of these approaches) or intravenous t-PA. Treatments were to be given as soon as possible after randomization. The primary outcome was survival free of disability (defined as a modified Rankin score of 0 or 1 on a scale of 0 to 6, with 0 indicating no symptoms, 1 no clinically significant disability despite symptoms, and 6 death) at 3 months. Results A total of 181 patients were assigned to receive endovascular therapy, and 181 intravenous t-PA. The median time from stroke onset to the start of treatment was 3.75 hours for endovascular therapy and 2.75 hours for intravenous t-PA (P<0.001). At 3 months, 55 patients in the endovascular-therapy group (30.4%) and 63 in the intravenous t-PA group (34.8%) were alive without disability (odds ratio adjusted for age, sex, stroke severity, and atrial fibrillation status at baseline, 0.71; 95% confidence interval, 0.44 to 1.14; P=0.16). Fatal or nonfatal symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage within 7 days occurred in 6% of the patients in each group, and there were no significant differences between groups in the rates of other serious adverse events or the case fatality rate. Conclusions The results of this trial in patients with acute ischemic stroke indicate that endovascular therapy is not superior to standard treatment with intravenous t-PA. (Funded by the Italian Medicines Agency, number, NCT00640367 .).

Concepts: Clinical trial, Myocardial infarction, Stroke, Atrial fibrillation, Pulmonary embolism, Tissue plasminogen activator, Thrombolysis, Plasmin


Background Endovascular therapy is increasingly used after the administration of intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) for patients with moderate-to-severe acute ischemic stroke, but whether a combined approach is more effective than intravenous t-PA alone is uncertain. Methods We randomly assigned eligible patients who had received intravenous t-PA within 3 hours after symptom onset to receive additional endovascular therapy or intravenous t-PA alone, in a 2:1 ratio. The primary outcome measure was a modified Rankin scale score of 2 or less (indicating functional independence) at 90 days (scores range from 0 to 6, with higher scores indicating greater disability). Results The study was stopped early because of futility after 656 participants had undergone randomization (434 patients to endovascular therapy and 222 to intravenous t-PA alone). The proportion of participants with a modified Rankin score of 2 or less at 90 days did not differ significantly according to treatment (40.8% with endovascular therapy and 38.7% with intravenous t-PA; absolute adjusted difference, 1.5 percentage points; 95% confidence interval [CI], -6.1 to 9.1, with adjustment for the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale [NIHSS] score [8-19, indicating moderately severe stroke, or ≥20, indicating severe stroke]), nor were there significant differences for the predefined subgroups of patients with an NIHSS score of 20 or higher (6.8 percentage points; 95% CI, -4.4 to 18.1) and those with a score of 19 or lower (-1.0 percentage point; 95% CI, -10.8 to 8.8). Findings in the endovascular-therapy and intravenous t-PA groups were similar for mortality at 90 days (19.1% and 21.6%, respectively; P=0.52) and the proportion of patients with symptomatic intracerebral hemorrhage within 30 hours after initiation of t-PA (6.2% and 5.9%, respectively; P=0.83). Conclusions The trial showed similar safety outcomes and no significant difference in functional independence with endovascular therapy after intravenous t-PA, as compared with intravenous t-PA alone. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others; number, NCT00359424 .).

Concepts: Stroke, Modified Rankin Scale, Disability, Tissue plasminogen activator, Thrombolysis, Plasmin, Barthel scale, Rehabilitation medicine


Population-based studies have revealed declining acute ischemic stroke (AIS) hospitalization rates in the United States, but no study has assessed recent temporal trends in race/ethnic-, age-, and sex-specific AIS hospitalization rates.

Concepts: United States, Stroke, Poverty in the United States, U.S. state, Spanish language, Florida


Background Whether brain imaging can identify patients who are most likely to benefit from therapies for acute ischemic stroke and whether endovascular thrombectomy improves clinical outcomes in such patients remains unclear. Methods In this study, we randomly assigned patients within 8 hours after the onset of large-vessel, anterior-circulation strokes to undergo mechanical embolectomy (Merci Retriever or Penumbra System) or receive standard care. All patients underwent pretreatment computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging of the brain. Randomization was stratified according to whether the patient had a favorable penumbral pattern (substantial salvageable tissue and small infarct core) or a nonpenumbral pattern (large core or small or absent penumbra). We assessed outcomes using the 90-day modified Rankin scale, ranging from 0 (no symptoms) to 6 (dead). Results Among 118 eligible patients, the mean age was 65.5 years, the mean time to enrollment was 5.5 hours, and 58% had a favorable penumbral pattern. Revascularization in the embolectomy group was achieved in 67% of the patients. Ninety-day mortality was 21%, and the rate of symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage was 4%; neither rate differed across groups. Among all patients, mean scores on the modified Rankin scale did not differ between embolectomy and standard care (3.9 vs. 3.9, P=0.99). Embolectomy was not superior to standard care in patients with either a favorable penumbral pattern (mean score, 3.9 vs. 3.4; P=0.23) or a nonpenumbral pattern (mean score, 4.0 vs. 4.4; P=0.32). In the primary analysis of scores on the 90-day modified Rankin scale, there was no interaction between the pretreatment imaging pattern and treatment assignment (P=0.14). Conclusions A favorable penumbral pattern on neuroimaging did not identify patients who would differentially benefit from endovascular therapy for acute ischemic stroke, nor was embolectomy shown to be superior to standard care. (Funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; MR RESCUE number, NCT00389467 .).

Concepts: Brain, Stroke, Traumatic brain injury, Medical imaging, Magnetic resonance imaging, Modified Rankin Scale, Radiology, Embolism


Background It is uncertain whether bridging anticoagulation is necessary for patients with atrial fibrillation who need an interruption in warfarin treatment for an elective operation or other elective invasive procedure. We hypothesized that forgoing bridging anticoagulation would be noninferior to bridging with low-molecular-weight heparin for the prevention of perioperative arterial thromboembolism and would be superior to bridging with respect to major bleeding. Methods We performed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which, after perioperative interruption of warfarin therapy, patients were randomly assigned to receive bridging anticoagulation therapy with low-molecular-weight heparin (100 IU of dalteparin per kilogram of body weight) or matching placebo administered subcutaneously twice daily, from 3 days before the procedure until 24 hours before the procedure and then for 5 to 10 days after the procedure. Warfarin treatment was stopped 5 days before the procedure and was resumed within 24 hours after the procedure. Follow-up of patients continued for 30 days after the procedure. The primary outcomes were arterial thromboembolism (stroke, systemic embolism, or transient ischemic attack) and major bleeding. Results In total, 1884 patients were enrolled, with 950 assigned to receive no bridging therapy and 934 assigned to receive bridging therapy. The incidence of arterial thromboembolism was 0.4% in the no-bridging group and 0.3% in the bridging group (risk difference, 0.1 percentage points; 95% confidence interval [CI], -0.6 to 0.8; P=0.01 for noninferiority). The incidence of major bleeding was 1.3% in the no-bridging group and 3.2% in the bridging group (relative risk, 0.41; 95% CI, 0.20 to 0.78; P=0.005 for superiority). Conclusions In patients with atrial fibrillation who had warfarin treatment interrupted for an elective operation or other elective invasive procedure, forgoing bridging anticoagulation was noninferior to perioperative bridging with low-molecular-weight heparin for the prevention of arterial thromboembolism and decreased the risk of major bleeding. (Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health; BRIDGE number, NCT00786474 .).

Concepts: Blood, Stroke, Atrial fibrillation, Thrombosis, Pulmonary embolism, Warfarin, Anticoagulant, Heparin


Hypertension is the most common condition seen in primary care and leads to myocardial infarction, stroke, renal failure, and death if not detected early and treated appropriately. Patients want to be assured that blood pressure (BP) treatment will reduce their disease burden, while clinicians want guidance on hypertension management using the best scientific evidence. This report takes a rigorous, evidence-based approach to recommend treatment thresholds, goals, and medications in the management of hypertension in adults. Evidence was drawn from randomized controlled trials, which represent the gold standard for determining efficacy and effectiveness. Evidence quality and recommendations were graded based on their effect on important outcomes. There is strong evidence to support treating hypertensive persons aged 60 years or older to a BP goal of less than 150/90 mm Hg and hypertensive persons 30 through 59 years of age to a diastolic goal of less than 90 mm Hg; however, there is insufficient evidence in hypertensive persons younger than 60 years for a systolic goal, or in those younger than 30 years for a diastolic goal, so the panel recommends a BP of less than 140/90 mm Hg for those groups based on expert opinion. The same thresholds and goals are recommended for hypertensive adults with diabetes or nondiabetic chronic kidney disease (CKD) as for the general hypertensive population younger than 60 years. There is moderate evidence to support initiating drug treatment with an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor, angiotensin receptor blocker, calcium channel blocker, or thiazide-type diuretic in the nonblack hypertensive population, including those with diabetes. In the black hypertensive population, including those with diabetes, a calcium channel blocker or thiazide-type diuretic is recommended as initial therapy. There is moderate evidence to support initial or add-on antihypertensive therapy with an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker in persons with CKD to improve kidney outcomes. Although this guideline provides evidence-based recommendations for the management of high BP and should meet the clinical needs of most patients, these recommendations are not a substitute for clinical judgment, and decisions about care must carefully consider and incorporate the clinical characteristics and circumstances of each individual patient.

Concepts: Chronic kidney disease, Myocardial infarction, Hypertension, Stroke, Blood pressure, Renin-angiotensin system, Angiotensin II receptor antagonist, ACE inhibitor