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Am Fam Physician. 2023;108(1):70-77

Patient information: See related handout on stroke prevention.

This clinical content conforms to AAFP criteria for CME.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial relationships.

Ischemic stroke is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Ischemic stroke and transient ischemic attack exist on a continuum of the same disease process. Ischemic stroke is common, and more than 85% of stroke risk is attributed to modifiable risk factors. The initial management of acute stroke is usually performed in the emergency department and hospital settings. Family physicians have a key role in follow-up, ensuring that a complete diagnostic evaluation has been performed, addressing modifiable risk factors, facilitating rehabilitation, and managing chronic sequelae. Secondary prevention of ischemic stroke includes optimization of chronic disease management (e.g., hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia), nonpharmacologic lifestyle interventions (e.g., diet changes, exercise, substance use counseling), and pharmacologic interventions. Dual antiplatelet therapy with aspirin and clopidogrel is generally indicated for minor noncardioembolic ischemic strokes and high-risk transient ischemic attacks and should be converted to single antiplatelet therapy after 21 to 90 days. Secondary prevention of cardioembolic stroke requires long-term anticoagulation. Direct oral anticoagulants are preferred over warfarin for patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation. Poststroke problems with mobility, balance, cognition, dysphagia, and depression are common. Rehabilitation involves a multidisciplinary, multimodal approach that includes physical therapy, speech therapy, and treatment of chronic pain and poststroke depression.

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