Stroke units are special units where stroke patients receive, simultaneously, medical and physical treatment. Compared to general neurological and medical wards, stroke units show a significant reduction of short- and longtime mortality, and an improvement of long-term quality of life. Nevertheless, mortality in these units is still high (1-year mortality ∼32%; 5-year mortality ∼60%), and consequently, new approaches are needed to control stroke parameters during the acute phase, with the goal to reduce mortality rates. The philosophy of our stroke unit in Fermo (Italy), is to establish a strong association between heart and brain care by approaching each stroke patient as a cardiocerebral patient. In particular, we perform 12-lead Holter ECG monitoring, to prevent the vicious cycle affecting correct cerebral and cardiac functions, and to react to cardiac complications, mostly arrhythmias, that can worsen cerebral damage. Holter ECG monitoring allows a fast physiotherapeutic approach, a better evaluation of metabolic parameters, and collectively, a better global evaluation of the patient during the acute phase of disease. In two years of activity, 80 patients that were admitted to our stroke unit during 1998, and treated as cardio-cerebral patients, were followed-up. This combined treatment decreased the 1-year mortality rate by about 30%, in comparison with the 22% mortality rate reported in the literature. These results confirm the validity of stroke units, as well as of our approach based on cardio-cerebral control of each stroke patient.
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