Prevalence, predictors and prognosis of incidental intracranial aneurysms in patients with suspected TIA and minor stroke: a population-based study and systematic review

Introduction

Unruptured intracranial aneurysms (UIAs) are common incidental imaging findings, but there are few data in patients with transient ischaemic attack (TIA)/stroke. The frequency of UIA might be higher due to shared risk factors, but rupture risk might be reduced by intensive secondary prevention. We determined the prevalence and prognosis of UIA in patients with suspected TIA/minor stroke.

Methods

All patients referred to the population-based Oxford Vascular Study (2011–2020) with suspected TIA/minor stroke and non-invasive angiography were included. We determined the prevalence of incidental asymptomatic UIA and the risk of subsequent subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) by follow-up on intensive medical treatment, with guideline-based monitoring/management. We also did a systematic review of UIA prevalence/prognosis in cohorts with TIA/stroke.

Findings

Among 2013 eligible patients, 95 (4.7%) had 103 previously unknown asymptomatic UIA. Female sex (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.5 to 3.7), smoking (2.1, 1.2 to 3.6) and hypertension (1.6, 1.0 to 2.5) were independently predictive of UIA, with a prevalence of 11.1% in those with all three risk factors. During mean follow-up of 4.5 years, only one SAH occurred: 2.3 (95% CI 0.3 to 16.6) per 1000 person-years. We identified 19 studies of UIA in TIA/stroke cohorts (n=12 781), all with either symptomatic carotid stenosis or major acute stroke. The pooled mean UIA prevalence in patients with TIA/stroke was 5.1% (95% CI 4.8 to 5.5) and the incidence of SAH was 4.6 (95% CI 1.9 to 11.0) per 1000 person-years.

Interpretation

The 5% prevalence of UIA in patients with confirmed TIA/minor stroke is likely higher than that in the general population. However, the risk of SAH on intensive medical treatment and guideline-based management/monitoring is low.

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