09:22pm Thursday 12 December 2019

Indigenous stroke patients lose out

Blood pressure meter

Monique Kilkenny and Associate Professor Dominique Cadilhac of Monash University’s Stroke and Ageing Research Centre (STARC), and staff from the National Stroke Foundation examined data from the 2009 National Stroke Audit of acute services. Hospitals treating Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients were included in the analysis.

The results, published in the International Journal of Stroke indicated that, within the same hospitals, there was less adherence to most evidence-based, recommended processes for treatment of stroke for Indigenous compared to non-Indigenous patients.

Specialist treatment administered in stroke units has been shown to be associated with a 22 per cent reduction in death or disability for stroke patients. The study showed that Indigenous Australians were less likely to receive this and other forms of care, including timely assessments in hospital.

Ms Kilkenny said that although further research was needed to ascertain what led to the disparity in care, the implications of the study were clear.

“Our previous research has shown that care quality in hospitals influences the likelihood of recovery after stroke. The most important thing is that all patients get access to a stroke unit which specialises in providing the best health care for all stroke sufferers,” Ms Kilkenny said.

The authors called for initiatives to address the disparity of care.

Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in Australia and previous studies have indicated that Indigenous Australians are disproportionately affected by it. Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people are 50 per cent more likely to be admitted to hospital and nearly twice as likely die from stroke as non-Indigenous Australians. 

The difference was especially pronounced in younger age brackets, with Indigenous patients aged 18 to 64 years being three times more likely to die or suffer loss of independence following a stroke than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Monash University.

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