The study is published in the November 1, 2011, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“Our findings represent a growing challenge for the health care system as baby boomers age and their risk of stroke and dementia increases,” said lead study author Gustavo Saposnik, MD, MSc, of the University of Toronto in Canada and member of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study involved 9,304 people who had a stroke between 2003 and 2008. Of the group, 702 people had dementia at the time they had a stroke.
Researchers found the people with dementia who had a stroke were three times more likely to have greater disability at discharge from the hospital compared to people without dementia who had a stroke, with 81 percent of those with dementia having moderate to severe disability compared to 57 percent of those without dementia. In addition, only 24 percent of the people in the dementia group returned to the place they lived prior to the stroke compared to 45 percent of people without dementia.
People with dementia were also more likely to have severe stroke and an abnormal heart rhythm and less likely to receive tPA, a clot-busting drug used to treat stroke.
“How to best manage stroke patients with pre-existing dementia is under debate and raises several diagnostic, management and ethical issues as some facilities may limit access to specialized stroke care for dementia patients unless the care is likely to improve outcomes,” said Saposnik. “The lack of established guidelines for the management and treatment of stroke patients with dementia contributes to this uncertainty.” Another study is underway to determine whether dementia or other comorbid conditions (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, smoking) are responsible for the observed outcomes.
This study was supported in part by the Canadian Stroke Network and Heart and Stroke Foundation Ontario.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 24,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com.