Stroke poses a burden on patients, their families and services

  • Although stroke event rates fell by 25% between 1997 and 2009, the estimated number of stroke events increased by almost 6% in the same period due to the ageing of the population.
  • Stroke death rates declined in Australia by 70% between 1979 and 2010. In 2010, stroke caused 8,300 deaths in Australia, accounting for 6% of all deaths.
  • More people are now surviving a stroke, with an estimated 375,800 people surviving in 2009.
  • Between 1998 and 2009, disability caused by stroke declined from 45% to 35%.
  • In 2009-10, there were more than 35,300 hospitalisations for stroke and 25,800 hospitalisations for rehabilitation care associated with stroke.
  • Informal carers play an important role in the care of stroke survivors. In 2009, an estimated 75,000 primary carers provided assistance to people with stroke and disability. More than half of primary carers spend 40 hours or more each week in their caring role.
  • In 2008-09, total health-care expenditure for stroke in Australia was $606 million, which accounts for 7.8% of the estimated health-care expenditure of all cardiovascular disease and is second only to coronary heart disease.
  • Stroke prevalence rates were higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than in the non-Indigenous population, and higher in people from the lowest socioeconomic group than in those in the highest socioeconomic group.

Specialised care facilities for patients increase

  • Stroke units significantly improve health outcomes of stroke patients. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of stroke units in public hospitals increased from 54 to 74 and the proportion of patients receiving stroke unit care increased from 50% to 60%.

But there is still room for improvement

  • Thirty-nine per cent of hospitals required to admit and manage people with acute stroke reported having a stroke unit. Although this is an improvement compared with 2004 (19%), it is still low compared with some other countries with similar sized economies to Australia.
  • From 2007 to 2010, the number of patients admitted for ischaemic stroke who received thrombolysis increased from 461 to 1,170. This could be related to an increase in the number of stroke units offering this service (from 24% in 2007 to 36% in 2011).
  • Although discharge planning is recommended for all stroke survivors, and is a pivotal point in the journey to recovery, only 50% of stroke patients received such a plan in 2011.

Data gaps limit our knowledge in several areas

  • There are limited national data on: the time elapsed between onset of stroke symptoms and the start of emergency care; uptake of best practice guidelines; or medications given in acute care or at discharge.