An Updated Definition of Stroke for the 21st Century: A Statement for Healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association
*This consensus statement was reviewed by the CNS/AANS Joint Cerebrovascular Section and subsequently endorsed by the CNS/AANS.
*Reviewed by CNS/AANS Joint Subspecialty Sections, rather than the JGC
Stroke is classically characterized as a neurological deficit attributed to an acute focal injury of the central nervous system (CNS) by a vascular cause, including cerebral infarction, intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH), and subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), and is a major cause of disability and death worldwide. Despite its global impact, the term “stroke” is not consistently defined in clinical practice, in clinical research, or in assessments of the public health. Advances in basic science, neuropathology, and neuroimaging have improved the understanding of ischemia, infarction, and hemorrhage in the CNS. The Stroke Council of the American Heart Association (AHA)/American Stroke Association (ASA) published a scientific statement in 2009 to update and clarify the definition of transient ischemic attack (TIA), which in turn requires a reevaluation of the broader definition of stroke. Classic definitions of stroke are decades old and have become outdated, but modern definitions have not been formalized and officially adopted by the AHA, ASA, or any other major organization.
The leadership of the AHA/ASA reached out to colleagues from the American Academy of Neurology, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the US Food and Drug Administration, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and others to establish a universal definition of stroke based on the current understanding of pathophysiology, as well as implications for clinical practice, research, and public policy. The writing group was composed of experts in neurology, neurosurgery, neuroradiology, neuropathology, clinical research methods, epidemiology, biomarkers, policy, and global public health.
A similar approach has been used to generate a multisocietal universal definition of myocardial infarction (MI). Notably, important differences between MI and stroke warrant definitions of these 2 entities that are somewhat overlapping yet also distinct, and the universal definition of MI cannot fully apply to the approach to stroke. Unlike heart disease, stroke is more of a heterogeneous disease that includes cerebral hemorrhages and several pathogenic subtypes of ischemic stroke. There are also differences in the relative importance of risk factors. Because of these important differences between strokes and heart disease, a common definition may not be appropriate.