American Heart Association

outcomes

Acute Stroke Care in Europe

Ali Saad, MD

Wiedmann S, Hillmann S, Abilleira S, Dennis M, Hermanek P, Niewada M, et al. Variations in Acute Hospital Stroke Care and Factors Influencing Adherence to Quality Indicators in 6 European Audits. Stroke. 2015

This is a European study looking at risk factors that impact variations in acute hospital stroke care during 2007-2008. The authors used national databases from Germany, Poland, Scotland, Catalonia, Sweden, England/Wales/Northern-Ireland to look at demographic and clinical characteristics.




Key findings were that older patients were less likely to get thrombolysis, anticoagulation, and stroke unit care, but were more likely to be screened for dysphagia. Women were also less likely to receive anticoagulation/antiplatelet treatment or stroke unit treatment. aside from these trends, the study also found that there was great variation in stroke quality indicators like the delivery of thrombolytics, dysphagia screening, admission to a stroke unit for care, anticoagulant therapy, antiplatelet therapy etc. The use of thrombolytics alone varied from 1.3% to 9.1% among different audits.

Standardizing care in Europe would be more difficult compared to the US given hospitals’ different definitions of a stroke unit and the lack of a unifying governing body. Although the EU helps provide universal health care, it currently does not dictate best clinical practice for stroke. Joint Commission International does accredit hospitals as primary stroke centers, but no European countries have participated in this accreditation. I contacted the European stroke organization with the same question and am waiting to hear back from them. i’ll update this blog post with a comment if I do.

Some similarities the authors found compared to the US data include older patients being less likely to receive anticoagulation for Afib and more likely to receive dysphagia evals.

For those interested in the “weekend effect” on the delivery of stroke care, this study did not find one. the literature shows no consistent weekend effect and varies widely by country and hospital studied. Even different studies done of the same country, but at different hospitals or periods of time, show inconsistent findings.

Limitations of this study include no mention of a body (or lack thereof) that accredits stroke cares or enforces standard of care through hospital reimbursement like in the US. It is a retrospective study of several European countries so selection bias may have occurred. Although the authors showed a variation in stroke care, they did not present numbers comparing the same parameters measured in US counterparts, the data was also too limited to provide measures like functional outcome and mortality to show whether the lack of standardized care translated to worse morbidity and mortality. Lastly, there is no mention of a key stroke quality measure, post-stroke rehab, possibly due to the lack of data.

How does this study change my practice? It makes me more cognizant of biased treatment of women and the elderly. also makes me aware of the lack of standardized care for acute stroke in Europe.

Long term annual cost of ischemic stroke and intracranial hemorrahge

Duy Le, MD


Previous attempts have been made to evaluate the economic burden of ischemic stroke. The NEMESIS study, an Australian based study, evaluated costs 3 to 5 years out from the original stroke event. Gloede et al push the envelope by attempting to quantify the cost of ischemic stroke (IS) and intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) 10 years out. They used The Model of Resource Utilization Costs and Outcomes for Stroke (MORUCS) which was also employed by the NEMESIS study. NEMESIS patients were evaluated in this study and followed out to 10 years. The cost of illness models for both IS and ICH were updated from a 2004 to 2010 reference year, adjusting for inflation. The Australian population was used in this model and currency translated to USD in terms of cost.  



For first ever IS, 243/283 of the NEMESIS participants were interviewed (86% responder rate). For first ever ICH, 43/50 of the NEMESIS participants were interviewed. For IS, the overall average annual direct cost at 10 years was similar to survivors between 3-5 years (5,207 USD). The distribution of the costs however varied, as medication increased from 13% to 20%, while cost for rehabilitation services and facilities decreased over that same time span. ICH on the other hand had an increase of 24% in annual direct costs (from  5,807 USD to 7,607). Aged-care facility-costs for ICH were noted to be 64% higher at 10 years compared to 3-5 years. Costs were highest within the first year for both IS and ICH. Although the most practical way to evaluate the question of long term cost is to employ surveys as this study did; this is also the study’s biggest limitation. Surveys inherently can be biased, depending on the responder. Additionally, an Australian population was analyzed in an attempt to extrapolate costs for US patients. 

From this study, we find out that the cost of a first time ischemic stroke goes beyond the initial costs up front. The annual cost 10 years post IS however are not different from 3-5 years post IS. While some may argue this does not offer much information to us, it still reaffirms the fact that the financial burden of stroke is felt long after in the initial event. On the other end, ICH costs increase annually at 10 years compared to 3-5 years due to increased care facility costs; further making the point that the financial burden of these disease processes continue long after the index event.  Patient, families and physicians should be aware of this when dealing with patients in both the inpatient and outpatient setting with these disease processes.

A Familiar Stroke Prognosis Model Finds External Validation

Ali Saad, MD

Bray BD, Campbell J, Cloud GC, Hoffman A, James M, Tyrrell PJ, et al. Derivation and External Validation of a Case Mix Model for the Standardized Reporting of 30-Day Stroke Mortality Rates. Stroke. 2014

Prognosis can be a trepidacious component of the post-stroke conversation. Practitioners are often hesitant to provide concrete answers to patients and their families, leading to frustration on both sides. Multiple stroke prognosis scores have been created over the years and focus on NIHSS, age, and non-lacunar sub-type as the main variables. These scores are limited by lack of external validity, use of variables not universally recorded in the stroke registry, and limitation of use for either ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke.

This British study demonstrates external validity of a model that uses these common variables to predict 30 day ischemic/hemorrhagic stroke mortality. Internal data was derived from the Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (January-June 2013) and external validation was done using the South London Stroke Register (2005-2012).

2 models were ultimately created, A and B. The variables used were:
age (<60, 60-69, 70-79, 80-89, 90 or greater), Afib, ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke subtype, and NIHSS. The 2 models differed in that A used the full NIHSS while B used only the level of consciousness component.

Model A had a c-statistic of 0.86 (95% CI 0.85-0.88) and 0.87 (0.84-0.89) for internal and external validation respectively. For Model B, the corresponding c-statistics were 0.82 (0.81-0.83) and 0.86 (0.83-0.89)

The disadvantage of this model is that its c-statistic predictive value is not significantly better than prior models, like the iScore. Other limitations include this model being internally and externally validated in a UK (albeit ethnically diverse) population. It is also unknown whether these patients received IV-tPA, clot extraction, or aggressive measures for their bleeds, all of which would certainly skew outcomes.

The advantage of this model is that it only uses a few key variables and may be used for ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke. NIHSS’s are often incomplete in the medical record and level of consciousness alone appears to be a good surrogate. The population from the Sentinel program was unselected thereby making it more robust. Future stroke studies may now consider this model given its external validation and permission of cases mixing.

Cracking ICD-9-CM Codes: Accuracy of Discharge Diagnoses in Stroke

Mark McAllister, MD


Jones SA, Gottesman RF, Shahar E, Wruck L, Rosamond WD. Validity of Hospital Discharge Diagnosis Codes for Stroke: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Stroke. 2014

Epidemiological estimates regarding stroke prevalence and mortality are often based on ICD-9-CM codes from hospital discharge. The accuracy of such statements is dependent on the codes actually corresponding to the labelled diagnosis. The authors sought to investigate the sensitivity and positive predictive values of ICD-9-CM codes for stroke and intracranial hemorrhage using diagnoses from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study as the gold standard.


The ARIC study is comprised of nearly 16,000 patients in four communities in the US, and the database was searched for hospitalizations for ischemic strokes and intracranial hemorrhage. Strokes were identified by use of a stroke/hemorrhage related ICD-9-CM code, keywords in the discharge summary, or cerebral radiographic findings and validated by both computer algorithm and physician reviewer. Using this group of validated stroke and hemorrhage diagnoses the ICD-9-CM codes were compared.

Looking at AHA/ASA code groupings for ischemic stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage, and subarachnoid hemorrhage they found the positive predictive value to be 76% and sensitivity of 68%. An alternative grouping using more ICD codes increased sensitivity to 83%. These numbers are lower than previously published values and suggest stroke incidence may be underestimated based on ICD-9-CM codes.

10 years of experience with telestroke in Germany

Ali Saad, MD

Müller-Barna P, Hubert GJ, Boy S, Bogdahn U, Wiedmann S, Heuschmann PU, and Audebert HJ. TeleStroke Units Serving as a Model of Care in Rural Areas: 10-Year Experience of the TeleMedical Project for Integrative Stroke Care. Stroke. 2014

This paper presents data from the German telestroke network, TEMPiS (TeleMedical Project for integrative Stroke Care). Established in 2003, it provides remote stroke expertise to rural areas in Germany. They used prospective registries from TEMPiS hospitals from 2003-12 and looked at typical stroke metrics.


Key findings were
– percentage of patients seen in the hospital with stroke/TIA as the diagnosis 19%->78%
– thrombolytic administration 2.6%->15.5%,
– median onset to treatment time 150min->120min
– door to needle time 80min->40min

Limitations of the TEMPiS experience include the lack of data on sustainability due to its novelty. The data excludes in-hospital strokes, but included hemorrhagic strokes. Included patients were from the largest insurer in the area, but it only covers 40% of the population.

This treatment model is great for rural areas without access to large stroke centers as well as patients who prefer treatment at their local hospital. It also provides evidence that although stroke centers provide excellent care, telestroke is a cost-effective solution to rural areas who may not have the local expertise needed. The TEMPiS experience echoes the success of the telestroke networks in GA, USA and Alberta, CA.

The authors highlight the need to develop relationships with the surrounding community hospitals and convince them that telestroke will provide care that is reliable and beneficial to their patients. This might seem to go without saying, but one must keep in mind that these rural hospitals have been managing without this service for years. It takes great leadership and some charisma to convince a group of doctors to change the way they’ve been practicing for years and invest in a new system.