J. Kwan, P. Hand, M. Dennis, P. Sandercock



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Age and Ageing

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Background and purpose: integrated care pathways are often implemented to guide acute stroke therapy and improve organisation of care, but there is not sufficient evidence to support their routine use. We sought to evaluate the effects of introducing an integrated care pathway for acute stroke. Methods: we performed a before-and-after study. The ‘before’ (control) group comprised 154 consecutive stroke patients admitted to the acute stroke unit over a 9-month period. The ‘after’ (intervention) group comprised 197 consecutive patients admitted to the same unit over a 9-month period in the year after the introduction of the integrated care pathway. Effectiveness was assessed with a variety of measures: quality of documentation; process of care; occurrence of complications; death and discharge destination. Results were adjusted for case mix using a validated model. Results: the baseline characteristics of the two groups were similar, although there were more total anterior circulation strokes (29% versus 18%, P = 0.005) and fewer partial anterior circulation strokes (30% versus 42% P = 0.04) in the intervention group. In the intervention group, we found that urinary tract infections were significantly less frequent (OR 0.37, CI 0.15-10.91) and the quality of several aspects of care (e.g. CT scanning < 48 hours) and documentation were significantly better. However, there were no significant differences in deaths, discharge destination, or length of stay between the two groups. Conclusion: this before-and-after study has provided further evidence that introducing an integrated care pathway for acute stroke may improve the quality of documentation and process of care, and reduce the risk of certain post-stroke complications.