Stroke Complications May Take Years Off Healthy Life

Complications shortly after a stroke deprive patients of about 2 years of healthy life — in addition to the toll of stroke, according to research reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Findings from the Complication in Acute Stroke Study (COMPASS) are based on data from more than 1,200 patients (average age 66 years) treated at four South Korean university hospitals in 2004-200505. All patients had an acute ischemic stroke, which results when a blood vessel supplying the brain is blocked.

Researchers gauged the impact of stroke and its complications using disability-adjusted life years (DALY) measures of age, gender and disability level. DALY combines years of life lost with years of healthy life lost due to disability, according to a press release. They calculated DALY lost due to stroke and additional DALY lost due to stroke complications.

The average DALY lost for stroke survivors was 3.82 years. When researchers assessed the effect of complications after stroke, they found that average DALY for those without — complications was 3.10 years. However, patients suffering any of a range of complications — about a third of all subjects — lost an average of 5.21 DALY, a difference of 2.1 healthy life years.

“This study delineates the burden of post-stroke complications with a more comparable and more understandable scale — healthy life years lost,” Keun-Sik Hong, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and associate professor at Inje University in South Korea, stated in the release.

DALY can yield consistent comparisons between the impact of stroke and other medical conditions and provide insights on treatments’ benefits.

“Accordingly, this scale helps public health policy decision-makers to allocate limited resources based on a more scientific judgment,” Hong stated.

Almost 34% of patients experience some complication within four weeks of their stroke, including stroke progression, pneumonia, urinary tract infection, additional stroke, seizure or heart attack.

Patients with one complication lost 1.52 additional DALY on average, while patients with two or more complications lost 2.69 DALY.

Almost half the complications developed within 2 days of the stroke, including half the cases of pneumonia and 65% of the instances of ischemic stroke progression, Hong stated.

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