According to new research published in the journal Stroke, one-third of people who survive a stroke before the age of 50 are unable to live independently or need assistance with daily activities 10 years after their stroke. For the study, researchers assessed the function of 722 people who had a first stroke when they were age 18 to 50 years. After an average follow-up of 9 years, approximately one-third had at least moderate disability that required assistance for some activities. In addition, many were unable to perform routine tasks independently.

The research determined that the rate of poor functional outcome and the ability to live independently varied by the type of stroke. Specifically, following a transient ischemic attack (TIA), 16.8% had functional disability and 10.8% had poor skills for independence; after an ischemic stroke, 36.5% had functional disability and 14.6% were unable to live independently; and after a hemorrhagic stroke, 49.3% had functional disability and 18.2% didn’t have the skills for independent living.

In addition, patients fared worse if they experienced another stroke during the follow-up period. Of the 91 patients who did experience another stroke, 54.9% were at least moderately disabled compared with 28.7% of those with a recurrent stroke, while 33.3% were dependent on others in activities of daily living compared with 11.5% of those without a recurrent stroke.

The researchers are investigating the factors most responsible for poor functional outcome. Frank-Erik de Leeuw, PhD, senior author of the study, says, “Most doctors view young stroke patients as a group with great recovery opportunities. But our study is the first to show these almost life-long effects of stroke on performance. This is important to communicate right from the start to patients and families.”

[Source: American Heart Association]