Stroke units are specialized clinical departments dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of stroke. By international standards different requirements for the equipment for primary and comprehensive stroke centers are defined.
In primary stroke centers brain CT or MR scanning should be available at all times: treatment follows established guidelines and dedicated protocols, while thrombolytic therapy is available on a 24/7 basis.
In addition, comprehensive stroke units should provide dedicated brain imaging in various modalities and offer further diagnostics and treatment options, such as transcranial Doppler sonography, diagnostic and interventional angiography, neurosurgical and vascular surgical consultation, and continuous rehabilitation therapy.
Key differentiators of stroke units and conventional wards include early initiation of secondary prevention, rapid patient mobilization and multi-disciplinary expertise in stroke neurology, stroke nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and neuropsychology.
Stroke units have proved to significantly reduce mortality, patient dependency, and the need for institutional care independent of gender, age, type of stroke, and stroke severity of the patients. Although acute care in stroke units is more expensive than in normal neurological wards, studies have shown the cost effectiveness of stroke units in the long run.
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