OBJECTIVE: To estimate the influence of family history on the occurrence of stroke. METHODS: A case-control study was carried out from August 1992 to January 1994. The study population comprised 502 patients with a first stroke, aged between 20 and 70 years, who were treated at 48 affiliated hospitals. The same number of age and sex matched controls were selected from outpatients. Diagnoses were based on CT findings and clinical signs. There were 155 case-control pairs for subarachnoid haemorrhage, 158 for intracerebral haematoma, and 159 for cerebral infarction. Information about the patients and their families was obtained from a questionnaire which included the family histories of each subtype of stroke and other potential risk factors for stroke. The data were analysed focusing on the role of the family histories in the occurrence of stroke. RESULTS: In univariate analysis, the family histories of subarachnoid haemorrhage and intracerebral haematoma were positively associated with each of the subtypes of stroke (odds ratios 11.24 for subarachnoid haemorrhage, 2.39 for intracerebral haematoma), whereas family history of cerebral infarction was not a significant risk factor for its occurrence (odds ratio 1.41). Family history of intracerebral haematoma was correlated with a personal history of hypertension and habitual alcohol consumption. After adjustment for potential risk factors (hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidaemia, obesity, alcohol consumption, and regular smoking), family history of subarachnoid haemorrhage still remained the most powerful risk factor for subarachnoid haemorrhage, whereas family history of intracerebral haematoma no longer showed a significant association with haematoma. CONCLUSION: Genetic factors play a major part in the pathogenesis of subarachnoid haemorrhage, and family history of subarachnoid haemorrhage is the strongest independent risk factor for the disease. On the other hand, family history of intracerebral haematoma was not an independent risk factor for haematoma, but it might be a good predictor, which indirectly influences the pathogenesis of intracerebral haematoma via certain hereditary components such as hypertension, and even lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption. In cerebral infarction, genetic factors play a minor part in its pathogenesis.
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