Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 27, Issue 7, pp 853–860

Symptomatic and Palliative Care for Stroke Survivors

  • Claire J. Creutzfeldt
  • Robert G. Holloway
  • Melanie Walker

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-011-1966-4

Cite this article as:
Creutzfeldt, C.J., Holloway, R.G. & Walker, M. J GEN INTERN MED (2012) 27: 853. doi:10.1007/s11606-011-1966-4


Stroke is the leading cause of disability and one of the most common causes of death worldwide. Outside the setting of acute management, secondary prevention and stroke rehabilitation, little has been written to address the ongoing symptomatic and palliative needs of these patients and their families. In this literature review, we look beyond secondary prevention with the aim of providing evidence-informed management guidelines for the myriad and often under-recognized symptomatic and palliative care needs of stroke survivors. Some of the most common and disabling post-stroke symptoms that are reviewed here include central post-stroke pain, hemiplegic shoulder pain, painful spasticity, fatigue, incontinence, post-stroke seizures, sexual dysfunction, sleep-disordered breathing, depression and emotionalism. We review the role of caregivers and explore ways to support them and, lastly, remind the reader to be perceptive to the patient’s spiritual needs. The literature is most robust, including controlled trials, for central post-stroke pain and depression. Synthesis and discussion outside these areas are frequently limited to smaller studies, case reports and expert opinion. While some data exists to guide informed decision-making, there is an urgent need to document best practice and identify appropriate clinical standards for the full spectrum of symptoms experienced by stroke survivors. We present the current and established data to aid health care providers in symptomatic and palliative management of stroke survivors.


strokepalliative caresymptom management

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claire J. Creutzfeldt
    • 1
  • Robert G. Holloway
    • 2
    • 3
  • Melanie Walker
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyUniversity of Washington Harborview Medical CenterSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  3. 3.Department of Medicine, Division of Palliative CareUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA