Incidence, risk factors and prognosis of stroke and TIA: the need for high-quality, large-scale epidemiological studies and meta-analyses.
Stroke is a considerable clinical, social and economic burden. In recent clinical trials, a number of strategies have been shown to reduce the risk of stroke and transient ischaemic attack (TIA) in both primary and secondary prevention settings. Whether these treatments are leading to a significant reduction in the incidence of first and recurrent stroke in the clinic, however, remains unclear due to a paucity of high-quality epidemiological data. A similar lack of reliable epidemiological studies has undermined our understanding of the relationship between many potentially important vascular risk factors and stroke risk. Improvement in our knowledge of stroke epidemiology is a prerequisite for the planning of stroke services, the effective application of current stroke prevention strategies, the development of new strategies, and our understanding of the mechanisms of stroke. Future studies must take into account the clinical and pathological heterogeneity of TIA and stroke, and must be powered to allow subtype differences in risk factor relationships and prognosis to be determined reliably. In many cases, this will require meta-analysis of detailed individual patient data from multiple independent studies.