Hyperhomocysteinemia is a potentially modifiable risk factor for stroke, and may have a negative impact on the course of ischaemic stroke. The role of hyperhomocysteinemia as it relates to stroke in Africans is still uncertain. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and short-term impact of hyperhomocysteinemia in Nigerians with acute ischaemic stroke. We hypothesized that Hcy levels are significantly higher than in normal controls, worsen stroke severity, and increase short-term case fatality rates following acute ischaemic stroke.
The study employed both a case-control and prospective follow-up design to study hospitalized adults with first – ever acute ischaemic stroke presenting within 48 hours of onset. Clinical histories, neurological evaluation (including National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) scores on admission) were documented. Total plasma Hcy was determined on fasting samples drawn from controls and stroke cases (within 24 hours of hospitalization). Outcome at 4 weeks was assessed in stroke patients using the Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS).
We evaluated 155 persons (69 acute ischaemic stroke and 86 healthy controls). The mean age ± SD of the cases was 58.8 ± 9.8 years, comparable to that of controls which was 58.3 ± 9.9 years (T = 0.32; P = 0.75). The mean duration of stroke (SD) prior to hospitalization was 43.5 ± 38.8 hours, and mean admission NIHSS score was 10.1 ± 7.7. Total fasting Hcy in stroke patients was 10.2 ± 4.6 umol/L and did not differ significantly from controls (10.1 ± 3.6 umol/L; P = 0.88). Hyperhomocysteinemia, defined by plasma Hcy levels > 90th percentile of controls (>14.2 umol/L in women and >14.6 umol/L in men), was present in 7 (10.1%) stroke cases and 11 (12.8%) controls (odds ratio 0.86, 95% confidence interval 0.31 – 2.39; P > 0.05). In multiple regression analysis admission NIHSS score (but not plasma Hcy) was a significant determinant of 4 week outcome measured by GOS score (P < 0.0001).
This exploratory study found that homocysteine levels are not significantly elevated in Nigerians with acute ischaemic stroke, and admission Hcy level is not a determinant of short-term (4 week) stroke outcome.