CSC: Costs for stroke patients soak up $2.5B per year in Canada

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Annually, 50,000 new stroke cases occur in Canada. And, these new cases equate to almost $2.5 billion each year in healthcare costs for just the first six months after a stroke, according to a study presented June 8 at the Canadian Stroke Congress (CSC) in Quebec City.

The BURST study (Burden of Ischemic Stroke), conducted by the Canadian Stroke Network, found that the direct and indirect costs averaged $50,000 per new stroke patient during the first six months.

Previous estimates in 1998 anticipated that total costs for stroke in Canada—both new stroke patients and long-term survivors—would be $2.4 billion total per year.

“The cost of stroke is far more than we expected—at least double previous estimates,” according to Mike Sharma, MD, of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

During the BURST study, researchers assessed 232 patients hospitalized for stroke at 12 sites across Canada to evaluate the healthcare costs at discharge and at three months, six months and one-year.

The researchers found that costs increased as the level of disability rose. Almost 25 percent of patients had non-disabling stroke and their costs for stroke during the first six months increased by $2,000. For those with highly debilitating stroke, healthcare costs reached as high as $200,000.

Additionally, the researchers said that 80 percent of the costs during the first six months after stroke were linked to the healthcare system costs and stroke-related expenses including transportation, care giving fees and lost income.

The researchers also said that direct and indirect costs were mostly associated with hospitalization, medication, diagnostic imaging, rehabilitation and physician costs.

"Our objective for the study was to identify the cost drivers so decision makers can make informed choices," Sharma said. "The idea is to make initial investments in prevention and acute treatment to prevent these costs down the road.”

The authors said that because the baby boomer generation ages are rising, the risk for stroke will increase in 2011 and put further strain on Canada's healthcare system.

Sharma said that prevention tactics could include getting more patients access to tissue plasminogen activators that can reduce stroke disability.

Additionally, prevention measures such as maintaining optimal blood pressures, weights and decreasing sodium intakes would be the biggest help in reducing healthcare spending and preventing stroke.