Embolic strokes of undetermined source: The case for a new clinical construct

Robert G. Hart, Hans Christoph Diener, Shelagh B. Coutts, J. Donald Easton, Christopher B. Granger, Martin J. O'Donnell, Ralph L. Sacco, Stuart J. Connolly

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

863 Scopus citations


Cryptogenic (of unknown cause) ischaemic strokes are now thought to comprise about 25% of all ischaemic strokes. Advances in imaging techniques and improved understanding of stroke pathophysiology have prompted a reassessment of cryptogenic stroke. There is persuasive evidence that most cryptogenic strokes are thromboembolic. The thrombus is thought to originate from any of several well established potential embolic sources, including minor-risk or covert cardiac sources, veins via paradoxical embolism, and non-occlusive atherosclerotic plaques in the aortic arch, cervical, or cerebral arteries. Accordingly, we propose that embolic strokes of undetermined source are a therapeutically relevant entity, which are defined as a non-lacunar brain infarct without proximal arterial stenosis or cardioembolic sources, with a clear indication for anticoagulation. Because emboli consist mainly of thrombus, anticoagulants are likely to reduce recurrent brain ischaemia more effectively than are antiplatelet drugs. Randomised trials testing direct-acting oral anticoagulants for secondary prevention of embolic strokes of undetermined source are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-438
Number of pages10
JournalThe Lancet Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Embolic strokes of undetermined source: The case for a new clinical construct'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this