Researchers in the Canadian State of Manitoba, have conducted a study of the health claims data for over 5,700 people with MS and compared them to a matched population of over 28,000 individuals without MS.
The findings reveal that although hospitalisation rates have been steadily declining for the whole population over the last 25 years, the rate of hospital stays for people with MS has been dramatically reduced over this period.
The study, published this month in the journal Neurology, showed that hospitalisations in the MS population declined by 75% from 1984 to 2011, but only by 41% in the matched population.
The number of hospitalisations specifically for MS-related reasons in people with MS, declined most substantially, from 43.4% of all hospitalisations in 1984 to only 7.8% in 2011.
Digestive system and circulatory system diseases were the most common non-MS related reasons for hospital admissions in both people with MS and the general population, however, circulatory system diseases and cancer were less common in the MS population. Bacterial pneumonia, influenza, urinary tract infections and pressure ulcers were more common in the MS population compared to the general population.
The length of time spent in hospital for each hospitalisation has also declined over the 25 year period studied, again with the most dramatic reduction in length of stay being seen in the MS population.
While the introduction of disease modifying therapies for MS during the period studied may have contributed to this decline in hospitalisation, the authors of the study note that the most substantial decline in hospitalisation rates for people with MS preceded the introduction of disease modifying therapies. This indicates that changes in health care delivery, such as outpatient rather than inpatient administration of intravenous steroid therapy for relapses, increased use of home care services or improved symptom management may also have contributed significantly to these observations.
Despite this huge reduction, hospitalisation rates remain higher in people with MS, so this study will provide important information on the reasons for hospital stays and assist efforts to prevent some of the complications that lead to hospitalisation for people with MS.
While this data relates to only one Canadian state, there have been similar findings in another Canadian state and in a study conducted in the United States. It is therefore likely that similar improvements may have occurred in the Australian population during this time, however, Australian-based studies would be required to confirm this.