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The Road to Recovery Following A Stroke


Cerebrovascular disease is the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer.  At last count, there were some 700,000 new strokes annually, with 160,000 deaths.

Fifteen percent of the survivors are destined to spend the rest of their lives in some type of health care facility, another 20% will never walk again without help, and 30% will forever be physically dependent on others. The adjustment to such a catastrophe is all the more difficult because most stroke victims are perfectly well until the onset of the attack. Stroke leaves many of its survivors with physical and mental disabilities which create a major social and economic burden.

The term "stroke" was chosen originally to emphasize the suddenness of the symptoms. A previously well person is literally "stricken down," often without warning. We know now that within the general category of illness called stroke, a broad variety of problems exist, all of which share brain dysfunction caused by abnormalities of the brain's blood vessels.

A stroke occurs when an artery to the brain bursts or becomes clogged by a blood clot, cutting off the supply of oxygen to that part of the brain. Brain tissue that is deprived of oxygen dies within minutes. As a result, the part of the body controlled by those brain cells cannot function properly: Known risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing a stroke are high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis, the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries.

Your brain controls how you move, feel, think, and behave. Brain injury from a stroke may affect any of these abilities, such as loss of movement and of sensation often on one side of the body, difficulty with speech and language, limited visual fields and perception, loss of emotional control and changes in mood, problems with memory, judgment, problem-solving or a combination of these.

The degree of recovery from a stroke varies greatly; Some people recover quickly with little or no lasting effects, while others may be left virtually helpless. A good deal depends upon prompt treatment to minimize the brain damage.

Rehabilitation begins in an acute care setting (like Good Samaritan Medical Center) when the patient is medically stable and able to benefit from therapy; Under a doctor's direction, rehabilitation specialists are consulted to provide a comprehensive treatment and restorative stroke program which should include:  rehabilitation nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language therapy. Rehabilitation continues into a sub-acute setting, such as the Goddard Center for Transitional Care, and is supplemented with rehabilitation counseling, recreational therapy, psychology; nutritional care, social work, patient/family education, and community integration.

Following rehabilitation, approximately 75% of stroke survivors are able to return home. Physical and occupational therapy play an integral role in stroke recovery by teaching the stroke survivor and the family how to function in the home setting safely and as independently as possible. For most stroke survivors, this may mean learning to perform daily exercises to increase strength, flexibility and stamina in order to recover from the weakness or paralysis.

Instruction and adaptive equipment are assessed and provided in order to optimize independence in activities such as grooming, dressing and bathing.  Problems such as limited reach, limited range of motion, limited grasp, visual impairment, paralysis, lack of  coordination and balance are all conditions that make even the simplest of daily chores difficult.

Nominal or appropriate nutritional requirements are altered with strokes.  Modifications of diet may be necessary to meet the greater demands for nutrients required by the body for energy production and maintenance through rehabilitation. For each stroke survivor, a specialized nutritional care plan is needed in order to assist in the recovery and rehabilitation

Through the rebuilding of lifestyles, each person is 'assisted toward physical, psychological, and as appropriate, vocational independence. In keeping with this holistic approach, Goddard Center offers a personalized treatment plan to facilitate a return to the patient's optimal level of function within their previous lifestyle. Recovery is enhanced by intensive patient and family education.


Should you have any further questions regarding this article, please direct your questions or comments to "Ask the Doctor" section.


Copyright © 2004 - 2012Taras V. Kochno, M.D.  All Rights Reserved
Board Certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation













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