MINNEAPOLIS – A new study suggests that using cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins after having a stroke may increase the likelihood of returning home and lessen the chance of dying in the hospital. The research is published in the May 22, 2012, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
"Statins are known to reduce the risk of further strokes, but the timing of when a statin should be started has been unclear," said study author Alexander C. Flint, MD, PhD, with Kaiser Permanente in Redwood City, Calif., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Our research suggests that people should be given statins while they are in the hospital."
Researchers examined the records of 12,689 people admitted to a Kaiser Permanente hospital in northern California with an ischemic stroke over a seven-year period.
Electronic medical and pharmacy records were used to determine statin use before and during stroke hospitalization.
Outcomes of hospital visits were identified as discharged to home, discharged to an institution, such as a rehabilitation center or nursing home, or death in the hospital.
The study found that people who used statins before and during their hospital stay were more likely to return home than people who did not use statins, with 57 percent of the statin users returning home compared to 47 percent of the non-users. Six percent of those who used statins before and during the hospital stay died in the hospital, compared to 11 percent of those who did not use statins.
For the study, the authors employed both a previously developed statistical technique known as "grouped-treatment analysis" and a new technique known as "last prior treatment analysis." Together, these methods appear to strengthen the causal relationship between statin use and improved discharge disposition.
"There are a multitude of benefits to returning directly home after experiencing a stroke for the patient and the family, both functionally and financially," said Flint.