Stroke Patients 'Overburdened'

Current practices for treating stroke victims may be leaving patients overburdened by their treatment plans, putting them at risk of adverse side effects, according to research.

A study led by researchers from the University of Glasgow found that most stroke patients are dealing with several other health conditions, leaving them with a considerable "treatment burden'' such as attending multiple appointments and taking several medications.

The researchers found a risk that patients could become overburdened by their treatments, which may result in ineffective treatment plans and wasted resources.

The study of 1.4 million people in Scotland - roughly a third of the adult population - found that around a fifth of stroke patients also suffer from another painful condition, whilst another fifth have depression.

It found that most stroke sufferers also take multiple other medications, known as polypharmacy, which could be putting them in danger of side-effects.

Experts suggest that care provision should be reviewed to treat the patient holistically rather than giving isolated treatments for different conditions.

Professor Frances Mair, professor of primary care research at the University of Glasgow, said: "Current stroke guidelines and health services are designed for individuals suffering from stroke alone which presents a real problem for patients.

"However, our research found that most stroke patients are also suffering from and receiving treatment for a number of other health conditions, which places a considerable treatment burden on them.

"Our research would suggest that people with stroke should be made aware of the relative benefits of their drugs so they can make more informed decisions about their treatments.

"Care pathways need to be restructured so that they are focused around the patient themselves rather than individual conditions.''

The research, entitled "Stroke, multimorbidity and polypharmacy in a nationally representative sample of 1,424,378 patients in Scotland: implications for treatment burden'', is published in the BMC journal Medicine.

The study found that multimorbidity (the presence of two or more long-term conditions) and polypharmacy were "strikingly more common'' in those with stroke than those without.

It concluded: "Clinical guidelines for stroke need to place greater emphasis on the management of multimorbidity, and further investigation of treatment burden in stroke is required to inform redesign of health services to improve patient outcomes.''

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