Thursday, October 30, 2014

For stroke patients, hospital bed position is a delicate balancing act

Bed position is an example of how attention to detail improves outcomes

MAYWOOD, Ill. (Oct. 30, 2014) – During the first 24 hours after a stroke, attention to detail - such as hospital bed positioning - is critical to patient outcomes.

Most strokes are caused by blood clots that block blood flow to the brain. Sitting upright can harm the patient because it decreases blood flow and oxygen to the brain just when the brain needs more blood.

Thus it’s reasonable to keep patients lying flat or as nearly flat as possible, according to a report in the journal MedLink Neurology by Loyola University Medical Center neurologist Murray Flaster, MD, PhD, and colleagues.

But strokes also can increase intracranial pressure (brain swelling) that can damage the brain. Sitting upright helps improve blood drainage and reduces intracranial pressure, but at a cost of reduced blood flow to the brain.

“There are few data to guide decision making in this difficult situation,” Flaster and his colleagues write.

Further complicating stroke care, some patients have orthopnea (difficulty breathing while lying flat). In such patients, the head of the bed should be kept at the lowest elevation the patient can tolerate.

Finally, frequent changes in body position, regardless of head position, may help patients tolerate lying flat, while also minimizing the risk of bed sores, the Loyola neurologists write.

Bed position is among the complex issues that Flaster and his colleagues address in their article, which summarizes the latest research on caring for ischemic stroke patients. (Most strokes are ischemic, meaning they are caused by blood clots.)

“The period immediately following an acute ischemic stroke is a time of significant risk,” the Loyola neurologists write. “Meticulous attention to the care of the stroke patient during this time can prevent further neurologic injury and minimize common complications, optimizing the chance of functional recovery."

The authors discuss stroke-care issues that can affect outcomes. For example, there is considerable evidence of a link between hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and poor outcomes after stroke. The authors recommend strict blood sugar control, using frequent finger-stick glucose checks and aggressive insulin treatment, regardless of whether the patient has a known history of diabetes.

In addition, for each 1-degree Celsius increase in the body temperature of a stroke patient, the risk of death or severe disability more than doubles. Therapeutic cooling has been shown to help cardiac arrest patients, and clinical trials are under way to determine whether such cooling could also help stroke patients. Until those trials are completed, the goal should be to keep normal temperatures (between 95.9 and 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit).

The authors discuss many other issues in stroke care, including blood pressure management; blood volume; statin therapy; management of complications such as pneumonia and sepsis; heart attack and other cardiac problems; blood clots; infection; malnutrition and aspiration; brain swelling; seizures; recurrent stroke; and brain hemorrhages.

Studies have shown that hospital units that specialize in stroke care decrease mortality, increase the likelihood of patients being discharged to their homes and improve functional status and quality of life.

Approximately 15 million people in the world have a stroke each year and nearly 6 million people die. Every six seconds someone dies from a stroke. The World Stroke Organization has designated Oct. 29 World Stroke Day to help spread public awareness of the world's high stroke risk and stroke prevalence.

Flaster is a stroke specialist and an associate professor in the Department of Neurology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Co-authors are Sarkis Morales-Vidal, MD; Michael Schneck, MD; and José Biller, MD. Dr. Morales-Vidal is an assistant professor, Dr. Schneck is a professor and Dr. Biller is professor and chair in the Department of Neurology.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), located on a 61-acre campus in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH), on a 36-acre campus in Melrose Park, and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. At the heart of LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that houses the Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, a burn center, a children's hospital, Loyola Outpatient Center, and Loyola Oral Health Center. The campus also is home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. The GMH campus includes a 254-licensed-bed community hospital, a Professional Office Building with 150 private practice clinics, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. It serves people and communities in 22 states from coast to coast with 93 hospitals, and 120 continuing care locations — including home care, hospice, PACE and senior living facilities — that provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually.