BMJ Support Palliat Care 3:77-83 doi:10.1136/bmjspcare-2012-000331
  • Research

Who, why and when: stroke care unit patients seen by a palliative care service within a large metropolitan teaching hospital

  1. Brian Le1
  1. 1Department of Palliative Care, Melbourne Health, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Melbourne Epicentre (The Centre for Clinical Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Health Services Research), Melbourne Health, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3Department of Neurology, Melbourne Health, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Peter Eastman, Department of Palliative Care, Melbourne Health, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Grattan Street, Parkville, VIC 3050, Australia; eastman{at}


Objectives To investigate factors associated with referral of patients from an Australian stroke care unit (SCU) to an inpatient palliative care service (PCS).

Methods This retrospective observational cohort study included patients who were referred to the PCS after SCU admission between 1 January and 31 December 2008. Variables measured included patient demographics, premorbid functional status, premorbid living situation, stroke type, history of previous stroke and discharge outcomes. Group differences between all SCU patients seen and not seen by the PCS were compared using univariate analyses. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was undertaken to identify factors associated with PCS involvement. Group differences were also compared between deceased stroke patients seen and not seen by the PCS.

Results 544 patients were admitted to the SCU during the study period with 62 (11.4%) referred to the PCS. Assistance with end-of-life care was the commonest reason for referral. From univariate analyses, factors significantly associated with PCS involvement included age, gender, premorbid modified Rankin score, living situation prior to stroke and stroke type. Factors predicting PCS involvement for SCU patients from logistic regression were: increasing age, higher premorbid modified Rankin score and haemorrhagic stroke. 87 (16.0%) SCU patients died during their admission, with 49 (56.3%) seen by PCS. Deceased patients seen were significantly older, more disabled premorbidly and lived significantly longer.

Conclusions This study indicates there are patient and condition-level factors associated with referral of stroke patients to PCS. It highlights factors that might better stratify hospitalised stroke patients to timely palliative care involvement, and adds an Australian perspective to limited data addressing this patient population.

  • Received 17 July 2012.
  • Revision received 20 November 2012.
  • Accepted 20 November 2012.
  • Published Online First 3 January 2013

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