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Ischemic Vagus Nuclei Lesions and Hyperglycemia: A Study in 26 Patients with Lateral Medullary Infarction and Matched Controls

Ruano L.a · Alves I.a · Barreto R.a · Araújo I.b · Veira C.a · Cruz V.T.a, b
aNeurology Department, Hospital São Sebastião, Centro Hospitalar Entre Douro e Vouga, Santa Maria da Feira, and bSecção Autónoma de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade de Aveiro, Campus Universitário de Santiago, Aveiro, Portugal Cerebrovasc Dis 2012;34:406–410 (DOI:10.1159/000343654)


Background: Hyperglycemia is common after stroke in diabetic and nondiabetic patients. Furthermore, it has been associated with infarct expansion, worse functional outcomes and higher mortality. In a previous study, infarction of the insular region was related to higher poststroke glucose levels than infarcts in other cortical areas. Experimental studies in animal models suggested that the lower brainstem nuclei of the vagus nerve modulate insulin secretion. These nuclei are usually affected in lateral medullary infarction (LMI). We evaluated whether patients with lateral medullary stroke have worse poststroke glycemic control than other stroke patients. Methods: A hospital-based stroke registry was used to identify 26 patients from the years 2000 to 2010 who fulfilled the following inclusion criteria: (1) a first-ever stroke; (2) neurological deficits compatible with LMI; (3) MRI confirmation of an ischemic lesion of the lateral medulla involving the vagus nerve nuclei, and (4) no simultaneous infarcts. Patients were excluded if they were admitted to the hospital more than 24 h after stroke onset or died in the first 24 h after hospital admission. A control group of other stroke patients was randomly selected from the same stroke registry and over the same time period, matching for the age and gender of the LMI group. The average glycemia was compared between the two groups using a linear regression model adjusted for confounders. Glycated hemoglobin at admission was used to estimate prestroke glycemic control. Prestroke glycemic averages were then compared with poststroke glycemia for the two groups using the Wilcoxon signed test for related samples. Results: The average glycemia of the LMI patients in the first 24 h after stroke was 9.4 mmol/l (SD 3.2), and from 24 to 72 h it was 7.6 mmol/l (SD 2.8). In the comparison group, these values were 7.7 (SD 2.8) and 7.1 mmol/l (SD 2.7), respectively. As expected, diabetic patients had a significantly higher glycemia than nondiabetic patients (p < 0.0001). The adjusted linear regression model showed the average glycemia differences to be significant for the first 24 h (p = 0.001; R2 = 55.6%) but not for the 24– 72 h period. The frequency of previous diabetes mellitus was similar in both groups. As compared to prestroke glycemic estimates, glycemia in lateral medullary stroke patients increased significantly more than in controls during the first 24 h after stroke (p = 0.01), but again there were no significant differences for the 24–72 h period. Conclusions: This study suggests that ischemic lesions of the vagus nerve nuclei are associated with worse early poststroke glycemic control than stroke in other locations. Confirmation of this hypothesis and the long-term implications of glucose control impairment warrant further prospective studies.


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