Stroke patients should have access to robust palliative care, American Heart Association urges in first-of-its-kind statement

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Stroke survivors have “enormous” palliative care needs, and healthcare providers should ensure they can provide these services, according to a scientific statement released Friday by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

In the first statement outlining palliative care guidelines for stroke survivors in the United States, members of the writing group emphasized the need for care coordination among different types of providers and clinicians. Nurses and therapists are two members of a care team that also should include primary care providers, neurologists and other specialists, families and the patients themselves, according to the statement.

High-quality palliative care should be patient- and family-focused to aid in the complex decision-making that characterizes stroke care, the guidance states.

Specifically, the care should involve “effective, sensitive discussions” about physical and mental losses and, potentially, dying. Providers should address “pros and cons” of options such as ventilators and feeding tubes, and physical pain and psychological issues should be monitored and addressed.

The American Heart Association Stroke Council's Scientific Statement Oversight Committee appointed the writing group. They reviewed literature and drew on their own expertise to draft the statement, which appears in the journal Stroke.

In September, the AHA/ASA issued a policy recommendation that all stroke patients should have access to skilled nursing and rehabilitation services.

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