Objective: Recurrent strokes and functional decline are predicted by age related white matter changes (ARWMC). Whether they are associated with long term survival among hospital patients referred for acute stroke is not known.
Methods: A total of 396 consecutive acute stroke patients subjected to magnetic resonance imaging were included in the study and followed-up up to 12 years.
Results: Of the patients 28% had mild, 18% had moderate and 54% had severe ARWMCs. In Kaplan-Meier analysis, poor survival was predicted by severe ARWMCs (p<0.0001), cardiac failure (CF, p<0.0001), atrial fibrillation (AF, p<0.0001), other arrhythmias (p=0.003), peripheral arterial disease (PAD, p=0.004) and poor modified Rankin score (mRS) (p<0.0001). ARWMC was related to death by all brain related causes, especially ischemic stroke (p<0.0001). In stepwise Cox regression analysis adjusted with significant risk factors, severe ARWMCs (HR 1.34, 95%CI 1.03-1.73, p=0.029), age (HR 1.07, 95%CI 1.05-1.09, p<0.0001), CF (HR 1.59, 95%CI 1.17-2.15, p=0.003), AF (HR 1.68, 95%CI 1.24-2.27, p=0.001), PAD (HR 1.59, 95%CI 1.11-2.26, p=0.011), diabetes (HR 1.44, 95%CI 1.08-1.92), p=0.013), smoking (HR 1.60, 95%CI 1.23-2.08, p<0.0001), and mRS (HR 1.65, 95%CI 1.26-2.14, p<0.0001) were independently associated with death from all causes. Severe ARWMCs (HR 1.80, 95%CI 1.10-2.96, p=0.019), age (HR 1.05, 95%CI 1.01-1.09, p=0.009), AF (HR 1.82, 95%CI 1.08-3.07, p=0.026), PAD (HR 2.17, 95%CI 1.19-3.95, p=0.012) and mRS (HR 2.75, 95%CI 1.67-4.54, p<0.0001) were specifically associated with death from brain-related causes.
Conclusions: In patients with acute stroke, ARWMC seems to be a significant predictor of poor long term survival and death by ischemic stroke.