THURSDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- Complications from stroke,
such as pneumonia or a secondary stroke, can shorten the lives of
patients by an average of two years, researchers report.
"Previous studies have already shown that post-stroke complications increase mortality as well as disability," noted lead researcher Dr. Keun-Sik Hong, an associate professor in the department of neurology at Ilsan Paik Hospital, Goyang, South Korea. And the new study shows that "greater numbers of complications is associated with greater loss of healthy life years," he said.
The report is published in the July 1 online edition of
For the study, Hong's team followed more than 1,200 stroke
patients to see how they fared after their stroke. Patients were
evaluated using the disability-adjusted life-year (DALY) metric,
which was developed by the World Health Organization to measure the
burden of disease mortality and disability.
Using DALY, Hong's team was able to calculate life span lost to
stroke, as well as years lost due to stroke complications.
"Early post-stroke complications deprive patients of about two years of optimum health," on average, Hong said.
The researchers found that among stroke survivors overall, the
average disability-adjusted life-years lost after the attack was
just under four years. The average DALY for those without
complications was just over three years, they note, but among
patients suffering any complication the average DALY loss was more
than five years.
And about 34 percent of patients suffered some type of
complication within four weeks of their stroke. This included
stroke progression, pneumonia, urinary tract infection, an
additional stroke, seizures or heart attack, the researchers
Hong's team calculated that patients with one complication lost
an average of about 1.5 additional disability-adjusted life-years,
while patients with two or more complications lost close to
Analyzing the loss to patients in this way may "help
decision-makers understand the burden of post-stroke complications
and the imperatives of implementing organized stroke care more
widely," Hong said.
Dr. Steven R. Levine, a professor of neurology at Mount Sinai
School of Medicine in New York City, said that "we don't know how
generalizable Korean patients are to America, so [the study] needs
to be done again for American patients."
Korean patients seemed to have more intracranial complications
than is seen in the United States, "so their numbers may be worse
than ours, but it could be in the same ballpark," he said.
The best way to prevent loss of healthy years is to prevent
stroke in the first place, Levine said. Stroke remains the leading
cause of disability in the United States and the third leading
cause of death, he noted.
Another expert, Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Duke
Stroke Center at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.,
said that when complications occur after stroke, physical therapy
and other interventions can help.
"Having complications is not a good thing," he said. "And anything we can do to reduce complications will, hopefully, be helpful."
Patient's conditions can also change over time, he said. "If
somebody has an acute complication, it may affect how they are at
three months, but not necessarily how they are at six months,"
For more information on stroke, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.