OBJECTIVE: To determine whether chronic alcohol consumption or acute alcohol intoxication affects the rate of IV thrombolysis (IVT) and associated risk of symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage (SICH) in patients with acute ischemic stroke (IS).
METHODS: We analyzed data from the nationwide Austrian Stroke Unit Registry for all patients with IS admitted to one of 35 stroke units between 2004 and 2014. We compared demographic and clinical characteristics for patients with chronic alcohol consumption (>2 drinks/d) or acute intoxication and for patients without these factors and their rates of IVT and associated SICH.
RESULTS: We identified 47,422 patients with IS. Of these patients, 3,999 (8.5%) consumed alcohol chronically and 216 (0.5%) presented with acute intoxication. Alcohol abusers were younger, more frequently men, and less often functionally disabled before the index event. Stroke severity was comparable between alcoholic and nonalcoholic IS patients. Nevertheless, patients who abused alcohol were less likely to receive IVT (16.6% vs 18.9%) and this difference remained after accounting for possible confounders. Rates of SICH after IVT were not increased in patients who abused alcohol (2.1% vs 3.7%, p = 0.04). Multivariate analysis including age, NIH Stroke Scale score, and time from symptom onset to IVT treatment showed that alcohol abuse was not an independent risk factor for SICH and was not protective (odds ratio 0.73, 95% confidence interval 0.43-1.25, p = 0.2).
CONCLUSIONS: IS patients with chronic alcohol consumption or acute intoxication have decreased likelihood of receiving IVT and are not at an increased risk of associated SICH. This supports current practice guidelines, which do not list chronic alcohol consumption or acute intoxication as an exclusion criterion.