Stroke reduces life expectancy by one third

19 April 2022

Almost two thirds of acute stroke patients fail to survive more than a decade and have high risk of recurrence, leading researchers to call for better patient care.

University of Queensland researchers analysed national data from 313,162 adult patients admitted to hospital following a sudden stroke during 2008‒2017 in Australia and New Zealand.

They also investigated how many years were lost to stroke by comparing a patient’s predicted life expectancy with the length of actual survival.

UQ Epidemiologist, Dr Yang Peng, a Research Fellow with the Prince Charles Hospital Northside Clinical Unit, who led the study said only 36.4% of patients survived beyond 10 years, and 26.8% had another stroke.

“We found that a stroke reduced a patient’s life expectancy by five and a half years on average, compared with the general population. In proportional terms, this meant a stroke reduced a person’s life expectancy by one third,” Dr Peng said.

“Patients with a hemorrhagic stroke who have bleeding in the brain are at greater risk of death, stroke recurrence and reduced life expectancy, than those with an ischemic stroke, which is caused by an occluded blood vessel.”

Acute stroke is one of the most common causes of hospitalisation and disability in Australia, and has been linked to risk factors such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, smoking, and heart disease.

Study co-author, Dr Kathryn Colebourne, who is a stroke and general physician at The Prince Charles Hospital, said these findings reinforce the need for concerted efforts to improve acute stroke care.

“We need stroke networks of care to rapidly identify patients who have had a stroke, provide them with access to important and time sensitive treatment, such as thrombolysis, a clot busting medication, and endovascular therapy, a specialised procedure to remove blood clots in the vessels to the brain.

“We also need dedicated stroke units to provide multidisciplinary care for these patients which is known to reduce death and disability after a stroke”, said Dr Colebourne.

Dr Peng also emphasised the need to focus on lifestyle and risk factor modifications for secondary prevention given a quarter of patients will have a recurrent stroke.

“Very few population studies have explored the long-term outcomes of stroke, and this information is crucial for patients to understand their prognosis, and for health professionals seeking to improve stroke care and preventative measures.”

This study is published in Stroke (DOI:10.1161/STROKEAHA.121.038155) and was funded by the National Heart Foundation of Australia.