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Health Risks Rise for Medicare Patients in Year After Stroke
Date:12/16/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Within a year of having a stroke, almost two-thirds of Medicare patients die or wind up back in the hospital, a new study reports.

The findings highlight the need for better quality care for stroke patients, in the hospital and after they are sent home, experts noted.

"Patients with acute ischemic stroke are at very high risk for recurrent hospitalization and post-discharge mortality," said Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, chief of cardiology at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine and the study's lead researcher.

"These findings underscore the need to better understand the patterns and causes of deaths and readmission after ischemic stroke and to develop strategies aimed at avoiding those that are preventable," he said.

"Between the acute presentation with an ischemic stroke and a readmission to the hospital or post-discharge death, a window of opportunity exists for interventions to reduce the burden of post-ischemic stroke morbidity and mortality," Fonarow added.

The report was published online Dec. 16 in Stroke.

For the study, Fonarow's team collected data on 91,134 Medicare patients, who averaged 79 years old and had been treated for a stroke at 625 hospitals. All hospitals took part in the American Heart Association's Get with the Guidelines program, which helps facilities improve care for people with heart disease or who've had a stroke.

The researchers found that 14.1 percent of stroke patients died within 30 days of their stroke and 31.1 percent died within a year. In addition, 61.9 percent of stroke patients were readmitted to the hospital or died in the year after their stroke.

"However, these outcomes after stroke greatly vary by which hospital the patient received care at," Fonarow said.

When the researchers compared the data among hospitals, they found that 9.8 percent of the st
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