People with stroke conventionally receive a substantial part of their rehabilitation in hospital. Services have now been developed that offer people in hospital an early discharge with rehabilitation at home (early supported discharge: ESD).
To establish if, in comparison with conventional care, services that offer people in hospital with stroke a policy of early discharge with rehabilitation provided in the community (ESD) can: 1) accelerate return home, 2) provide equivalent or better patient and carer outcomes, 3) be acceptable satisfactory to patients and carers, and 4) have justifiable resource implications use.
We searched the Cochrane Stroke Group Trials Register (January 2017), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL 2017, Issue 1) in the Cochrane Library (searched January 2017), MEDLINE in Ovid (searched January 2017), Embase in Ovid (searched January 2017), CINAHL in EBSCO (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature; 1937 to December 2016), and Web of Science (to January 2017). In an effort to identify further published, unpublished, and ongoing trials we searched six trial registries (March 2017). We also performed citation tracking of included studies, checked reference lists of relevant articles, and contacted trialists.
Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) recruiting stroke patients in hospital to receive either conventional care or any service intervention that has provided rehabilitation and support in a community setting with an aim of reducing the duration of hospital care.
The primary patient outcome was the composite end-point of death or long-term dependency recorded at the end of scheduled follow-up. Two review authors scrutinised trials, categorised them on their eligibility and extracted data. Where possible we sought standardised data from the primary trialists. We analysed the results for all trials and for subgroups of patients and services, in particular whether the intervention was provided by a co-ordinated multidisciplinary team (co-ordinated ESD team) or not. We assessed risk of bias for the included trials and used GRADE to assess the quality of the body of evidence.
We included 17 trials, recruiting 2422 participants, for which outcome data are currently available. Participants tended to be a selected elderly group of stroke survivors with moderate disability. The ESD group showed reductions in the length of hospital stay equivalent to approximately six days (mean difference (MD) -5.5; 95% confidence interval (CI) -3 to -8 days; P < 0.0001; moderate-grade evidence). The primary outcome was available for 16 trials (2359 participants). Overall, the odds ratios (OR) for the outcome of death or dependency at the end of scheduled follow-up (median 6 months; range 3 to 12) was OR 0.80 (95% CI 0.67 to 0.95, P = 0.01, moderate-grade evidence) which equates to five fewer adverse outcomes per 100 patients receiving ESD. The results for death (16 trials; 2116 participants) and death or requiring institutional care (12 trials; 1664 participants) were OR 1.04 (95% CI 0.77 to 1.40, P = 0.81, moderate-grade evidence) and OR 0.75 (95% CI 0.59 to 0.96, P = 0.02, moderate-grade evidence), respectively. Small improvements were also seen in participants' extended activities of daily living scores (standardised mean difference (SMD) 0.14, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.25, P = 0.01, low-grade evidence) and satisfaction with services (OR 1.60, 95% CI 1.08 to 2.38, P = 0.02, low-grade evidence). We saw no clear differences in participants' activities of daily living scores, patients subjective health status or mood, or the subjective health status, mood or satisfaction with services of carers. We found low-quality evidence that the risk of readmission to hospital was similar in the ESD and conventional care group (OR 1.09, 95% CI 0.79 to 1.51, P = 0.59, low-grade evidence). The evidence for the apparent benefits were weaker at one- and five-year follow-up. Estimated costs from six individual trials ranged from 23% lower to 15% greater for the ESD group in comparison to usual care.In a series of pre-planned analyses, the greatest reductions in death or dependency were seen in the trials evaluating a co-ordinated ESD team with a suggestion of poorer results in those services without a co-ordinated team (subgroup interaction at P = 0.06). Stroke patients with mild to moderate disability at baseline showed greater reductions in death or dependency than those with more severe stroke (subgroup interaction at P = 0.04).
Appropriately resourced ESD services with co-ordinated multidisciplinary team input provided for a selected group of stroke patients can reduce long-term dependency and admission to institutional care as well as reducing the length of hospital stay. Results are inconclusive for services without co-ordinated multidisciplinary team input. We observed no adverse impact on the mood or subjective health status of patients or carers, nor on readmission to hospital.