SAGE Publications, International Journal of Stroke, 3(16), p. 248-264, 2020
Background Intracranial atherosclerotic stenosis is a highly prevalent cause of stroke worldwide with important ethnic disparities. Widely considered to be a common cause of stroke in Asian and Afro-Caribbean populations, relatively less is known about the burden and significance of intracranial atherosclerotic stenosis in Caucasians. Aims We aim to highlight recent insights and advances into the prevalence, prognosis, and treatment of symptomatic and asymptomatic atherosclerotic intracranial atherosclerotic stenosis in Caucasian patients. Summary of review We identified 48 articles studying intracranial atherosclerotic stenosis in Caucasian patients with ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack. Most studies were on hospital-based cohorts of consecutive patients and half were graded as “fair” quality. There was significant variation between studies in the definition of intracranial atherosclerotic stenosis and in the imaging modalities used to detect intracranial atherosclerotic stenosis. Overall, 12.1% of Caucasian patients were found to have any intracranial atherosclerotic stenosis, 6.4% symptomatic intracranial atherosclerotic stenosis and 11.1% asymptomatic intracranial atherosclerotic stenosis, with higher rates at older ages. In studies reporting prognosis, there were 61 and 10 same-territory ischemic strokes in 1000 person-years in patients with symptomatic and asymptomatic intracranial atherosclerotic stenosis, respectively. Percutaneous stenting and angioplasty have not proven superior to intensive medical management in patients with symptomatic intracranial atherosclerotic stenosis. Conclusions Intracranial atherosclerotic stenosis has previously been neglected as a cause of stroke in Caucasians but is highly prevalent at older ages and frequently discovered with the growing use of noninvasive angiography. Intensive medical therapy is the treatment of choice, but there is a need to develop novel treatments or therapeutic approaches to lower the risk of stroke in higher risk patients.