Thrombolysis, Stroke Units and Other Strategies for Reducing Acute Stroke Costs
Theodore H. Wein
Susan L. Hickenbottom
Andrei V. Alexandrov
Stroke is the leading cause of long term disability and the third leading cause of death in the US. Nearly $US40.9 billion (1997 values) are spent each year on direct and indirect stroke-related costs in the US alone. Length of hospital stay, hospital overheads and nursing-related and rehabilitation costs account for the majority of stroke-related expenditures. Intravenous recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA) therapy for patients presenting within 3 hours from onset of ischaemic stroke was shown to improve outcome at 3 months by the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke (NINDS) investigators using a dosage of 0.9 mg/kg. When the NINDS rt-PA Stroke Study results were examined using a Markov model, savings of $US4 to $US5 million (1996 values) per 1000 patients treated with rt-PA were projected. These savings were predicted to result from decreases in length of hospital stay, inpatient rehabilitation and nursing home costs, increases in the number of patients discharged directly to home and improvements in quality-adjusted life-years. Furthermore, a recent meta-analysis has documented that the institution of stroke units, consisting of multidisciplinary specialised stroke teams, also decreased length of hospital stay, death and dependency. Because only a minority of patients who have a stroke are currently eligible for thrombolysis, implementation of specialised and standardised stroke care may further enhance cost benefits and improve patient outcomes.
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