Strokes drastically reduce quality of life, showing need for better care systems, researchers say

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Post-stroke care warrants increased attention in light of a study showing people have poor quality of life in the years following a stroke, according to researchers.

A research team based in the United Kingdom analyzed five years' worth of questionnaire responses from about 750 people who experienced a stroke. The participants ranked their health status on a scale ranging from "worse than death" to "perfect health," and researchers compared their responses to a control group.

The researchers multiplied the time spent in a particular health state with a numerical value assigned to that state to determine "quality-adjusted life years." They found that in the five-year period after having a stroke, participants lost 1.71 years due to earlier death and an additional 1.08 years due to reduced quality of life, on average, totaling a loss of 2.79 "quality-adjusted life years." Those who had severe strokes lost just over 4 quality years.

"Our study should serve as a wake-up call that we need more funding and research for stroke treatments and secondary stroke prevention measures to improve quality of life in stroke survivors," said author Peter M. Rothwell, FMedSci, with the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Although the study was undertaken in the U.K., results were published by the American Academy of Neurology, in the journal Neurology. The organization noted that stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States. 

Last month, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association issued a policy statement calling for universal access to post-stroke skilled nursing and rehabilitation services, regardless of how an individual is paying for healthcare.