Women less likely to return to work after a severe stroke, study finds

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Being able to resume pre-stroke activities typically indicates successful recovery

A new study conducted by researchers from the American Heart Association explored what the recovery process looks like for stroke survivors. 

According to the findings, women may be more than half as likely as men to return to work after suffering a severe stroke

“Returning to work after a severe stroke is a sign of successful rehabilitation,” said researcher Dr. Marianne Hahn. “Resuming pre-stroke levels of daily living and activities is highly associated with a better quality of life. In contrast to most return-to-work studies, we included a large cohort of only people treated with mechanical clot removal; they are a subgroup of stroke patients at high risk for severe, persisting deficits.” 

Stroke recovery is different for all patients

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 600 people between the ages of 18 and 64 who were enrolled in the German Stroke Registry – Endovascular Treatment Study Group between 2015 and 2019. All of the participants had suffered a large vessel ischemic stroke and were treated with mechanical clot removal. Half of the group also received clot-busting stroke medication, and they were all employed prior to their heart health concerns.

Overall, about one-third of the study participants were able to return to work within three months of their stroke. However, women were nearly 60% less likely than men to go back to their jobs after three months. The study showed that functional deficits, which can range from vision or hearing troubles to language development and more, were the biggest barriers for study participants to return to work. 

“After examining the data further, we also found that women in our cohort were younger at the time of their stroke, were more likely to be non-smokers, and were more likely to have no existing significant disability when discharged from the hospital compared to the men in our study,” Hahn said. “Despite having more of these favorable characteristics for return to work, we did not observe a higher re-employment rate among women before considering these differences.” 

The researchers also learned that stroke patients who received both kinds of treatment – mechanical clot removal and prescription drugs – were about twice as likely to return to their jobs within three months. However, they explained that many factors can come into play when patients are deciding when to go back to work. 

“There is more to re-employment after mechanical thrombectomy than functional outcomes,” said Dr. Hahn. “Targeted vocational and workplace rehabilitation interventions have been shown to improve rates of return to work. And previous studies have also found that returning to work is associated with increased well-being, self-esteem, and life satisfaction.” 

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