MONDAY, Nov. 1, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Stroke patients are more likely to die if they're admitted to the hospital on the weekend instead of a weekday, regardless of the severity of the stroke, a new study finds.
Canadian researchers analyzed data from almost 21,000 stroke patients admitted to 11 stroke centers in the province of Ontario. Only patients with their first stroke were included in the study.
Seven days after a stroke, patients admitted on weekends had an 8.1 percent risk of dying, compared to a 7 percent risk for those admitted on weekdays. The findings were the same regardless of age, gender, stroke severity, other medical conditions, and the use of blood clot-busting drugs.
The researchers found no difference in the quality of stroke care, including time for admission and brain scans, between weekends and weekdays. On average, patients admitted on weekends were slightly older, more likely to arrive at hospital by ambulance, and had a shorter time from stroke onset to arrival at hospital. Fewer people with mild strokes were admitted on the weekends.
"Stroke is not the only condition in which lower survival rates have been linked for people admitted to hospitals on the weekends," study author Dr. Moira K. Kapral said in an American Academy of Neurology news release. She's now at the University of Toronto but was with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Ontario at the time of the study.
"The reason for the differences in rates could be due to hospital staffing, limited access to specialists and procedures done outside of regular hours," she said. "More research needs to be done on why the rates are different so that stroke victims can have the best possible chance of surviving."
The study appears in the Nov. 2 issue of the journal Neurology.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about stroke.