Continuous changes in stroke treatment and care, as well as changes in stroke characteristics, may alter stroke outcome over time. The aim of this paper is to describe time trends for treatment and outcome data, and to discuss if any such changes could be attributed to quality changes in stroke care.
Data from Riks-Stroke, the Swedish stroke register, were analyzed for the time period of 1995 through 2010. The total number of patients included was 320,181. The following parameters were included: use of computed tomography (CT), stroke unit care, thrombolysis, medication before and after the stroke, length of stay in hospital, and discharge destination. Three months after stroke, data regarding walking, toileting and dressing ability, as well social situation, were gathered. Survival status after 7, 27 and 90 days was registered.
In 1995, 53.9% of stroke patients were treated in stroke units. In 2010 this proportion had increased to 87.5%. Fewer patients were discharged to geriatric or rehabilitation departments in later years (23.6% in 2001 compared with 13.4% in 2010), but more were discharged directly home (44.2 vs. 52.4%) or home with home rehabilitation (0 vs. 10.7%). The need for home help service increased from 18.2% in 1995 to 22.1% in 2010. Regarding prevention, more patients were on warfarin, antihypertensives and statins both before and after the stroke. The functional outcome measures after 3 months did improve from 2001 to 2010. In 2001, 83.8% of patients were walking independently, while 85.6% were independent in 2010. For toileting, independence increased from 81.2 to 84.1%, and for dressing from 78.0 to 80.4%. Case fatality (CF) rates after 3 months increased from 18.7% (2001) to 20.0% (2010). This trend is driven by patients with severe strokes.
Stroke outcomes may change over a relatively short time period. In some ways, the quality of care has improved. More stroke patients have CT, more patients are treated in stroke units and more have secondary prevention. Patients with milder strokes may have benefited more from these measures than patients with severe strokes. Increased CF rates for patients with severe stroke may be caused by shorter hospital stays, shorter in-hospital rehabilitation periods and lack of suitable care after discharge from hospital.