Stroke Unit Versus General Medical Wards, II: Neurological Deficits and Activities of Daily Living

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Background and Purpose

The efficacy of stroke units has been extensively examined. It is unknown, however, whether the superiority of the stroke unit will remain after the increased focus on stroke treatment in general medicine. This study of patients admitted to the hospital early and with a short length of stay determines the effect and identifies certain important components of a stroke unit.


Five hundred fifty patients aged 60 years or older with acute stroke were allocated by a quasi-randomized design to a stroke unit or a general medical ward based on date of birth in the month. Patients admitted within 24 hours of onset were enrolled. Outcomes after 7 months were death, proportion needing long-term care, and change in neurological and functional state assessed by the Scandinavian Stroke Scale and Barthel Index.


Seven months after admission there was a trend in favor of the stroke unit in all outcome measures, but no significant differences in clinical outcomes were found except for change in the Scandinavian Stroke Scale score. Recurrent stroke during hospitalization occurred more often in the general medical ward (P=.03). The stroke unit was significantly more aggressive in mobilization out of bed (P<.01) and use of parenteral fluid (P<.0001), aspirin (P<.0001), antipyretics (P<.0001), and antibiotics (P<.0001).


Our study confirms the benefit of the stroke unit, but the effects on the most reliable clinical outcomes were modest and insignificant. Treatment in this stroke unit hastened recovery. More aggressive rehabilitation and use of parenteral fluid, aspirin, antipyretics, and antibiotics appeared in the stroke unit. (Stroke. 1998;29:586-590.)

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