Despite important new diagnostic laboratory and imaging technologies, the cause of brain infarction remains unexplained in 20% to 40% of subjects. Most stroke patients do not require extensive evaluations of coagulation, but hypercoagulability may account for a significant proportion of unexplained strokes. Hemostatic abnormalities associated with stroke may be broadly classified as familial or acquired. Principal among the familial thrombotic coagulopathies are deficiencies in concentration or function in protein-C, protein-S, and antithrombin III, but other hereditary abnormalities include sickle cell disease, homocystinuria, and dysfibrinogenemia. The acquired disorders of hemostasis associated with stroke probably constitute a larger proportion of the important stroke-related coagulopathies. In particular, the aPL antibody syndrome is now strongly associated with thrombotic events including stroke, although neither the mechanism of thrombosis nor effective therapies for this syndrome have been clearly elucidated. Many of the acquired hemostatic abnormalities exist within a special clinical setting such as with malignancy or with myeloproliferative diseases, nephrotic syndrome, and liver disease. Presumably many of these share common pathways of coagulation activation or dysfunction with the inherited disorders. Most of the hemostatic disorders in stroke are associated with dysfunction of vascular endothelium and abnormalities of or interference with the natural anticoagulant proteins: protein-C, protein-S, and antithrombin III. Improved understanding of these relationships should lead to better diagnosis and treatment for people at risk of stroke.
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