ABSTRACT: Ischemic stroke is a very frequent neurological disorder. It's incidence is increasing as western societies are aging. Effective therapies that reduce mortality and increase the chances of living symptom-free or, at least, in independence are available. Intravenous or intraarterial thrombolysis is an effective treatment with a number needed to treat of 6 if given within 4.5 hours after symptom onset. The safe use of thrombolysis requires an effective and repeatedly trained workflow established within a team of a neurologist and specialized nursing staff in an optimized environment (admission, imaging facility, laboratory, stroke unit). After peracute treatment, the patient should be transferred to a stroke unit. This unit is a spatially defined intermediate care unit with specifically trained personnel (physicians, nurses, therapists). Treating the patient in a stroke unit is as effective in improving outcome as thrombolysis and also reduces the length of hospital stay. In contrast to thrombolysis, which can be provided, on average, to only 5% of stroke patients, stroke unit care is applicable to most. The organization of medical care in most European countries and in Switzerland separate the acute phase from subacute rehabilitation and chronic stroke treatment. This can be highly confusing for the patient who, during the course of the disease, meets different physicians, nurses and therapists with often diverging opinions about prognosis and therapies. Consistent treatment approaches and patient/caregiver information is necessary and can only be implemented by providing a homogeneous pathway for continuous stroke care.
Praxis 11/2009; 98(22):1285-91.