Background and purpose
After an initial stroke, the risk of recurrent stroke is high. Models that implement best-practice recommendations for risk factor management in stroke survivors to prevent stroke recurrence remain elusive. We examined a model which focuses on vascular risk factor management to prevent stroke recurrence in survivors returning to their primary care physicians. This model is coordinated from the stroke unit, integrates specialist stroke services with primary care physicians, and directly involves patients and carers in risk factor management. It is underpinned by the shared care principle in which there is joint participation of specialists as well as primary care physicians in a planned, integrated delivery of care with ongoing involvement of patients and carers, a structure which encourages implementation of best-practice recommendations as well as transferability and sustainability. We hypothesized that an integrated, multimodal intervention based on a shared-care model which supports joint participation of stroke specialists and primary care physicians would improve the implementation of best-practice recommendations for risk factor management in stroke survivors returning to the community.
We undertook a double-blind randomized controlled trial, testing the model in three Australian cities using stroke survivors admitted to stroke units and discharged from hospital to return to their primary care physicians. The model was a shared care, multifaceted integrated program which included bidirectional feedback between general practitioner and specialist unit, education, and engagement of patient and carer in self-management with ongoing input from a multidisciplinary team. The primary endpoint was improvement or abolition of risk factors such as raised blood pressure, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, the modification of adverse life-style factors such as lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol abuse and adherence to preventive medication at one year. Intermediate measurement points were scheduled at three monthly intervals. Analysis was by intention to treat, evaluated by covariance or a linear model adjusting for confounding factors or variance of base-line risk factors. The study was registered as ACTRN = 1261100026498.
The study population was as follows: intervention (n = 112), control (n = 137). At baseline, there was no statistical difference between the groups for any variable. At the 12-month evaluation, there was a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure from baseline in the intervention group of 5.2 mmHg (p <0.01). This change was not observed in the control group (p = 0.29). Moreover, at 12 months the mean systolic blood pressure in the intervention group was 129.4 mmHg (SD 14.7), a result which was not obtained in controls. Fasting total cholesterol as well as triglycerides was reduced significantly in the intervention group (both p <0.01) but this was not the case in the control group (p = 0.11 and p = 0.27, respectively). At 12 months, there was no change in BMI in the intervention group but there was a significant increase in BMI (p = 0.02) in the control group. At 12 months in the intervention group, the mean distance walked with ease compared to the baseline measurements was increased by a mean distance of 600 m while in the control group the distance walked with ease was reduced compared to that measured at baseline. At 12 months, the Barthel index in the intervention group demonstrated improved function (p = 0.01), but no change was observed in controls.
At 12 months in the intervention group, there was a significant decrease in number of standard alcoholic drinks consumed per week compared to the baseline (p = 0.04). This was not observed in the control group (p = 0.34).
In stroke survivors, the ICARUSS (Integrated Care for the Reduction of Secondary Stroke) model is superior to usual care with respect to best-practice recommendations for traditional risk factors as well as behavioral and functional outcomes.