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With Certain Strokes, Effects Can Persist a Decade Later

'Survivorship care plans' might help people cope with quality-of-life concerns, study suggests

FRIDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- Patients who suffer a specific type of stroke often have lasting problems with mobility, normal daily activities and depression even 10 years later, according to a new study. Effects of this life-threatening type of stroke, known as subarachnoid hemorrhage, point to a need for "survivorship care plans," Swedish researchers say.

Led by Ann-Christin von Vogelsang at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, the researchers conducted a follow-up assessment of more than 200 patients who survived subarachnoid hemorrhage. These strokes are triggered by a ruptured aneurysm -- when a weak spot in one of the blood vessels supplying the brain breaks.

The study was published in the March issue of the journal Neurosurgery. Participants, whose average age was 61, consisted of 154 women and 63 men. Most had surgery to treat their condition.

A decade after suffering a stroke, 30 percent of the patients considered themselves to be fully recovered. All of the patients also were asked about health-related quality of life: mobility, self-care, usual activities, anxiety or depression, and pain or discomfort. Their responses were compared to similar people who didn't have a stroke.

Stroke survivors had significantly more trouble in all categories of quality of life, except for pain, according to a journal news release.

Not surprisingly, people with more severe disabilities had greater reductions in quality of life and considered themselves not fully recovered, the researchers said. Similarly, those with other underlying conditions also had more significant difficulties 10 years after suffering a stroke.

Overall quality of life on a 100-point scale was 78 for members of the general population compared with 71 for the stroke patients.

The study authors said people who survive a subarachnoid hemorrhage are at greater risk for lower quality of life and more health problems in addition to physical disability and depression.

"The implications for health care from our study are that aneurysmal [subarachnoid hemorrhage] patients need to be followed up and that support needs to be provided long term after the onset," the researchers said in the news release.

They concluded that long-term care plans, like those used to help cancer survivors, could provide follow-up support and help stroke patients manage unrealistic expectations for their recovery.

"A survivorship care plan aims to inform the patient of long-term effects, to identify psychosocial resources in their community, and to provide guidance on follow-up care, prevention and health maintenance," the researchers said.

Recent findings suggest that improvement can still occur in these patients more than a decade later, the release noted, with quality of life an important factor in long-term recovery.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on brain aneurysm.


SOURCE: Neurosurgery, news release, March 12, 2013

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