News release: Canadian-led international study shows huge costs of delayed access to stroke care

What: 11th World Stroke Congress brings together leading international stroke experts and an unparalleled scientific program covering epidemiology, prevention, acute care, rehabilitation and recovery in 100s of sessions and oral posters. Congress is attended by stroke professionals, researchers, policy makers, survivors and caregivers from around the world. #worldstroke2018

Where: Montreal, Canada, Palais des Congrès

When: October 17 – 20, 2018

Media opportunities: Stroke experts and people with lived experience of stroke will be available for interviews.

Today’s congress highlights

Late Breaking trials:

  • Systemic thrombolysis in patients with known and unknown time window. A pre-specified subgroup analysis of the ECASS4-study, presented by Dr. Peter Ringleb of Germany. (8:35 am, Hall H)
  • In newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation patients, a history of stroke is a better predictor of events than a history of TIA, presented by Dr. Werner Hacke of Germany. (10:35 a.m., Hall H)
  • Door to needle time for thrombolysis: A secondary analysis of the Thrombolysis ImPlementation in Stroke (TIPS) cluster randomized controlled trial, presented by Dr. M. Hasnain of Australia (11:29 am, Hall H)

Hot topic: Canadian study finds that delays of just an hour result in poorer outcomes for patients and greatly increased healthcare costs

It has been known for years that it is important to get stroke patients treatment as soon as possible to increase their chances of recovery. A Canadian-led international study being presented today to the World Stroke Congress in Montreal quantifies how important every hour can be – both for patients and for costs to society and the healthcare system.

The study, led by clinicians at the University of Calgary, found that every hour of delay resulted in shortened or diminished quality of life as well as substantially higher healthcare and societal costs.

“Faster treatment results in better outcomes and better quality of life,” said Dr. Michael Hill of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Calgary, one of the study authors. “The speed of treatment is one of the modifiable factors that will improve outcomes and reduce cost at both the system and the hospital level.”

Study collaborators from the U.S., U.K., France, Spain, Netherlands and Australia joined the Canadian researchers in examining outcome records and treatment costs for patients who had an ischemic stroke and were eligible for endovascular thrombectomy (EVT). With EVT, a person with an ischemic stroke has the clot physically removed as soon as possible after symptoms start. The process involves threading a thin tube through an artery and guiding it with X-ray imaging through blood vessels to the brain. A retrievable stent is used to remove the clot. The procedure has shown remarkable results in studies, reducing the overall death rate by 50 per cent and greatly diminishing the lasting effects of stroke in many patients.

The study concluded that within the first six hours, every hour of delay in starting the EVT procedure resulted in an average loss for the patient of 9 months at full quality of life  (known as a quality-adjusted life year or QALY), or 18 months less at 50 per cent quality of life due to disabilities.

As for cost, the study found every hour of delay within the first six hours resulted in increased healthcare costs of $6,173 per QALY and society costs of $7,597 per QALY. 

The losses are even greater during the very first hours after a stroke occurs. Within the first three hours, the study found, treatment delay of two hours – that are typically spent getting a patient to a stroke centre, evaluated, and brain imaged, even in relatively good circumstances – would result in average losses for the patient of close to 2 QALYs (2 years) and extra healthcare and societal costs of $11,000 and $15,000 per QALY (year), respectively.

Hot topic:  Young people, especially women, are less likely to take an ambulance to the hospital after stroke, causing harmful delays, Canadian researchers find

A study, led by Dr. Patrice Lindsay of Heart & Stroke, looked at pre-hospital behaviour of young stroke patients compared to older ones and found that young adults (ages 18-44), especially women, were less likely to take an ambulance to the hospital when they had a stroke. 

Researchers studied 2003-2016 data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information to compare hospital arrival times after stroke based on gender and age. At the same time, they looked at public polling data to analyze stroke awareness among different groups.

Hospital arrival time was an average 7 hours for older adults and younger men, but 9 hours in younger women. Yet, polling showed that more women knew at least one FAST sign of stroke compared to men. 

“Young adults, especially women, are less likely to use ambulance services and more likely to arrive to hospital late, even though they have more knowledge of stroke,” Dr. Lindsay says. “Targeted public health messaging is required to ensure younger adults seek timely stroke care.” Every hour of delay causes poorer outcomes after stroke and diminished quality of life.

Hot Topic: Canadian study looks at impact of aerobic exercise on cognitive improvement of stroke patients 

A study from Atlantic Canada being presented at the Congress today shows that aerobic exercise combined with cognitive training improved executive function by almost 50 per cent in chronic stroke patients who were presumed to have reached their recovery plateau.

The study, involving clinicians from Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s and Dalhousie University in Halifax, assigned patients who were greater than six months post-stroke – beyond the period when major recovery was thought to occur – to separate groups to do different motion activities – aerobic exercise (Aerobic) and less strenuous movements and tasks (Activity) – and paired them with one of two cognitive activities, computerized cognitive training (COG) and non-adapted computer games (Games).

They found that while both groups doing COG saw significantly improved fluid intelligence scores, only the COG group doing Aerobic exercise was significantly different from the control group doing Activity+Games, showing a 50% higher level of improvement.

“Although many people with stroke may have some cognitive impairment, cognition is rarely a target of rehabilitation interventions, yet those with impaired attention and executive functions likely don’t receive the full benefits of physical rehabilitation,” said Dr. Michelle Ploughman, lead author of the study from Memorial. “As a result, several years later, even if discharged from rehabilitation, they continue to have problems with cognition and participation in their communities. Our study shows that it is conceivable that aerobic exercise could serve to ‘prime’ the brain to enhance relearning of tasks and that such efforts can improve multiple outcomes at the same time.”

Hot topics: Other presentations of interest on the second day of the Congress:

  • A study conducted to examine existing outpatient stroke rehabilitation resources in Canada concluded that with the growing number of patients surviving stroke plus the increasing number of strokes projected among the aging population, community-based stroke rehabilitation services are not sufficient to meet the current demand, resulting in patient’s rehabilitation and recovery needs not being met.  Community-based services need to urgently become a priority for health system planners. (2:35 pm, Hall G)
  • A new application of the surgical technique known as EDAS reduced the rate of stroke recurrence and death for stroke patients with severe intracranial atherosclerotic disease, according to a Phase IIa clinical trial. This disease affects blood vessels in the brain with plaque and is a common cause of strokes. EDAS (Encephaloduroarteriosynangiosis) is an operation in which arteries from the scalp and the membranes that cover the brain are rerouted under the skull and placed near areas of the brain at risk of stroke. Over time, new blood vessels form, creating fresh pathways for blood and oxygen to reach the brain. The trial enrolled 52 patients with severe intracranial atherosclerotic disease who received the EDAS surgery and intensive medical management after showing symptoms of either a recent stroke or transient ischemic attack. After one year, 9.6 percent of these patients died or experienced another ischemic stroke, compared with 21.2 percent of patients who received only intensive medical management. Dr. Nestor R. Gonzalez, director of the Neurovascular Laboratory and professor of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai, was principal investigator for the trial. (9:20 am, Hall H)
  • An interactive platform discussion takes place at 10:05 am in the Exhibition Hall on human health in a sustainable world: How can we address stroke and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in sustainable cities? In a rapidly urbanizing world, with more than half of the global population living in cities, the threat of NCDs to human and planetary health is undeniable. Small and large cities at the same time have a role in allowing unhealthy lifestyles and suffering from the consequences of NCDs. However, concrete actions and urban models exist which are proved to successfully reduce air pollution, promote physical activity, and improve diets, with clear simultaneous co-benefits for stroke, other NCDs, and climate change mitigation. Cities also present a unique opportunity to provide better access to health services and reintegration for people living with stroke and other NCDs. Panelists include Dr. Pablo Lavados, Professor of Neurology, Director of Clinical Trials and Research Unit, Clínica Alemana de Santiago (Chile), Dr. Peter Sandercock, Professor of Medical Neurology, University of Edinburgh (UK), Dr. Mitchell Elkind, Professor of Neurology, Columbia University (USA), and Ms. Anne Simard, Chief Mission and Research Officer, Heart & Stroke (Canada).
  • A second platform discussion at 12:40 pm in the Exhibition Hall probes the need for multisectoral approaches to expanding access to healthcare for people living with stroke and NCDs. Evidence shows that heath care and essential medicines and technologies (EMTs) to prevent and treat stroke and NCDs are often unavailable to those who need them in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Limited access to affordable EMTs for NCDs may drive vulnerable individuals, families, and communities further into poverty. The importance of these services – qualified health personnel, medicines as well as technologies for screening, diagnosis, and care – will only increase as the global NCD burden swells. Increasing the availability of affordable EMTs for stroke and NCDs in low-resource settings is a complex problem, with solutions beyond the reach of any single organization or sector. Panelists include Dr. Alla Guekht, Professor of Neurology, Russian National Research Medical University (Russia), Dr. Daniel Lackland, Professor of Epidemiology, Medical University of South Carolina (USA), Dr. Madakasira Vasantha Padma, Professor of Neurology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (India), Dr. Jeyaraj Pandian, Principal/Dean of Christian Medical College, Ludhiana (India)
11th World Stroke Congress

The 11th World Stroke Congress, being held Oct. 17-20, 2018, at the Palais des Congrès in Montreal, Quebec, brings together leading international stroke experts and an unparalleled scientific program covering epidemiology, prevention, acute care and recovery in hundreds of sessions and oral posters. The Congress is attended by stroke professionals, researchers, policy makers and people with lived experience from around the world. This is the first time the biennial Congress has been held in North America in 12 years; the 2016 Congress was held in Hyderabad, India. This year’s Congress is jointly organized by the World Stroke Organization (WSO) and the Canadian Stroke Consortium (CSC). Co-presidents are Dr. Werner Hacke, WSO President, and Dr. Mike Sharma, CSC Chair.

About Stroke

A stroke happens when blood stops flowing to a part of the brain or bleeding occurs in the brain. This interruption in blood flow or bleeding into the brain leads to damage to the surrounding brain cells which cannot be repaired or replaced; 1.9 million brain cells die every minute during a stroke. Stroke can happen at any age. Stroke affects everyone: survivors, family and friends, workplaces and communities.

The effects of a stroke depend on the part of the brain that was damaged and the amount of damage done. Ischemic stroke is the most common form of stroke, caused by a sudden blocked artery (about 85% of all stroke). A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is sometimes called a mini-stroke and is the mildest form of ischemic stroke. A TIA is an ischemic stroke, caused by a briefly blocked artery with rapid spontaneous unblocking of the artery leading to only a short period of brain malfunction. However, TIAs are an important warning that a more serious stroke may occur. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures, causing bleeding in or around the brain (about 15% of all stroke). 

Recovery from stroke starts right away. The quicker the signs are recognized, and the patient is diagnosed and treated, the greater likelihood of a good recovery, with less chance of another stroke, and decreased healthcare costs. The first few hours after stroke are crucial, affecting the recovery journey for years to come. 

The impact of stroke around the world
  • There are over 80 million people currently living with the effects of stroke globally.
  • Stroke is the second leading cause of death and disability globally.
  • There are 13.7 million strokes around the world each year.
  • Five and a half million people die of stroke each year globally. 
  • One person dies of stroke every six seconds globally.
  • One in four survivors will have another stroke.
Stroke in Canada
  • Nine in ten Canadians have at least one risk factor for stroke.
  • There are 62,000 strokes in Canada each year – that is one stroke every nine minutes.
  • Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Canada and a leading cause of disability.
  • Each year, more than 13,000 Canadians die from stroke.
  • More than 400,000 Canadians live with long-term disability from stroke and this will almost double in the next 20 years.
  • Stroke among people under 65 is increasing and stroke risk factors are increasing for young adults.
World Stroke Organization

The World Stroke Organization (WSO) is the only global organization with a sole focus on fighting stroke. WSO’s mission is to reduce the global burden of stroke through prevention, treatment and long term care. WSO provides a strong voice for stroke professionals, survivors and caregivers in global and regional policy. The Organization is a WHO implementing partner and has UN approved consultative status.

Canadian Stroke Consortium

The Canadian Stroke Consortium is the professional organization for stroke neurologists and other physicians interested in stroke. Our members are committed to reducing the burden of stroke through the translation of clinical research into routine patient care. Increasing capacity for high quality research, enhancing the capability of stroke services, leading comprehensive knowledge translation programs, and advocating in health policy and systems of care affecting stroke represent the four pillars of CSC’s activities.

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

Life. We don’t want you to miss it. That’s why Heart & Stroke leads the fight against heart disease and stroke. We must generate the next medical breakthroughs, so Canadians don’t miss out on precious moments. Together, we are working to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery through research, health promotion and public policy.

For more information and to set up interviews contact: Diane Hargrave,

416-467-9954, ext. 102