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Open Access Research article

Patients' age as a determinant of care received following acute stroke: A systematic review

Julie A Luker1*, Kylie Wall2, Julie Bernhardt34, Ian Edwards5 and Karen A Grimmer-Somers1

Author Affiliations

1 International Centre for Allied Health Evidence, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia

2 Flinders Medical Centre, Bedford Park, South Australia

3 Physiotherapy School, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

4 Stroke Division, Florey Neurosciences Institute, Heidelberg Heights, Victoria, Australia

5 School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia

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BMC Health Services Research 2011, 11:161  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-161

Published: 6 July 2011

Abstract

Background

Evidence-based care should improve acute stroke outcomes with the same magnitude of effect for stroke patients of all ages. However, there is evidence to suggest that, in some instances, older stroke patients may receive poorer quality care than younger patients.

Our aim was to systematically review evidence of the quality of care provided to patients with acute stroke related to their age. Quality of care was determined by compliance with recommended care processes.

Methods

We systematically searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, ISI Web of Knowledge, Ageline and the Cochrane Library databases to identify publications (1995-2009) that reported data on acute stroke care process indicators by patient age. Data extracted included patient demographics and process indicator compliance. Included publications were critically appraised by two independent reviewers using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme tool, and a comparison was made of the risk of bias according to studies' findings. The evidence base for reported process indicators was determined, and meta-analysis was undertaken for studies with sufficient similarity.

Results

Nine from 163 potential studies met the inclusion criteria. Of the 56 process indicators reported, eleven indicators were evidence-based. Seven of these indicators (64%) showed significantly poorer care for older patients compared to younger ones, while younger patients received comparatively inferior care for only antihypertensive therapy at discharge. Our findings are limited by the variable methodological quality of included studies.

Conclusion

Patients' age may be a factor in the care they receive after an acute stroke. However, the possible influence of patients' age on clinicians' decision-making must be considered in terms of the many complex issues that surround the provision of optimal care for older patients with acute stroke.