Background: Organised specialist care for stroke improves outcome, but the merits of different methods of organisation are in doubt. This study compares the efficacy of stroke unit with stroke team or domiciliary care.
Methods: A single-blind, randomised, controlled trial was undertaken in 457 acute-stroke patients (average age 76 years, 48% women) randomly assigned to stroke unit, general wards with stroke team support, or domiciliary stroke care, within 72 h of stroke onset. Outcome was assessed at 3, 6, and 12 months. The primary outcome measure was death or institutionalisation at 12 months. Analyses were by intention to treat.
Findings: 152 patients were allocated to the stroke unit, 152 to stroke team, and 153 to domiciliary stroke care. 51 (34%) patients in the domiciliary group were admitted to hospital after randomisation. Mortality or institutionalisation at 1 year were lower in patients on a stroke unit than for those receiving care from a stroke team (21/152 [14%] vs 45/149 [30%]; p<0.001) or domiciliary care (21/152 [14%] vs 34/144 [24%]; p=0.03), mainly as a result of reduction in mortality. The proportion of patients alive without severe disability at 1 year was also significantly higher on the stroke unit compared with stroke team (129/152 [85%] vs 99/149 [66%]; p<0.001) or domiciliary care (129/152 [85%] vs 102/144 [71%]; p=0.002). These differences were present at 3 and 6 months after stroke.
Interpretation: Stroke units are more effective than a specialist stroke team or specialist domiciliary care in reducing mortality, institutionalisation, and dependence after stroke.