11 May 2006

Irish patients face greater risk of post-stroke death than other Europeans, study warns

Irish Examiner

By Claire O’Sullivan
11 May 2006

IRISH stroke sufferers are more likely to die within six months of their stroke than most of their European counterparts, new research shows.

The study reveals Ireland has one of the worst outcomes for stroke patients among 11 countries in Europe and also in Canada.

The Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) claimed the statistics highlighted the lack of dedicated stroke care facilities in Ireland and its impact on mortality and dependency following stroke.

According to the research, one-in-five sufferers in Ireland died within 180 days of a stroke. All Germans survived this period. In Finland, 4% died.

The average result within the 12 countries was 15%.

Ireland was found to have the worst overall record for stroke sufferers, with 67% of stroke sufferers dead or dependent after six months.

Meanwhile, only 2% of Irish stroke sufferers have access to an acute stroke unit while 5% have access to a stroke rehabilitation unit.

On average the study showed 39% of stroke victims overall attended an acute stroke unit while 31% availed of a dedicated rehabilitation unit.

Ireland, at 39 days, was also found to have the longest length of hospital in-patient stay for stroke patients, compared to 11 days in Denmark and Finland and 16 days the average. The countries surveyed included Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Britain.

Geriatrician and chairman of the IHF’s Council on Stroke, Professor Des O’Neill, said the study showed Ireland was far less developed in providing services following stroke.

“While aspects of the study did not compare exactly like-with-like, it did confirm Irish stroke services were less developed. The success of these units in improving outcomes in other countries shows clearly the need to develop these units across the country,” he said.

Details of the study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, were announced as the IHF began its biggest annual fundraising event, Happy Heart Weekend. The IHF will use the money raised, from selling €2 heart emblems, to improve stroke services by recruiting more stroke nurses.

The IHF has also started a national audit of stroke services, co-funded by the Department of Health.

Stroke impact

*Around 10,000 people suffer stroke each year in Ireland, leading to about 2,500 deaths.

*Stroke accounts for more deaths than breast cancer, lung cancer and bowel cancer combined.

*More women die of stroke than of breast cancer.

*30,000 people live with residual disability from stroke.

*Stroke risk can be reduced by not smoking and having regular blood pressure and cholesterol check ups.

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