Previous studies of stroke in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have had limited statistical power, combined stroke subtypes into composite outcomes, and lacked a reference population estimate. Therefore, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies to summarise the stroke subtype-specific risk in patients with SLE compared to the general population. A systematic search of MEDLINE and EMBASE was performed for cohort studies examining the risk of stroke in SLE and including a general population comparator. Random effects models were used to pool the risk ratio (RR) for stroke. Subgroup analyses were carried out to investigate potential sources of heterogeneity. 10 studies were included which reported RRs for overall stroke (n=5), ischaemic stroke (n=6), intracerebral haemorrhage (n=3) and subarachnoid haemorrhage (n=3). The pooled RR for overall stroke was 2.53 (95% CI 1.96 to 3.26), ischaemic stroke 2.10 (95% CI 1.68 to 2.62), intracerebral haemorrhage 2.72 (95% CI 2.15 to 3.44) and subarachnoid haemorrhage 3.85 (95% CI 3.20 to 4.64). Significant heterogeneity among studies for ischaemic stroke was detected (p=0.002). Relative risk of stroke was highest among individuals younger than 50 years of age. Individuals with SLE have a twofold higher risk of ischaemic stroke, a threefold higher risk of intracerebral haemorrhage, and an almost fourfold higher risk of subarachnoid haemorrhage compared to the general population. Future studies should focus on whether comorbidity and disease flares are related to stroke, when individuals are at the highest risk, and how the targeting of specific groups of patients with SLE may reduce this risk.
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