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Rehabilitation after stroke

Robert Djergaian, MD, is a physical and rehabilitation medicine specialist and medical director of the Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. His office can be reached at (602) 839-2737. 

Question: Is rehabilitation always needed after a stroke?

Answer: Rehabilitation is an essential part of stroke care and recovery. While the level of care depends on such factors as the degree of impact, risk of a subsequent stroke and overall health status, it is imperative that the rehabilitation process begins on day one.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability among adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It can result in an array of health complications, including weakness, blood clots in the legs, bowel and bladder management issues, pneumonia brought about by incorrect swallowing that can enable food and liquid to enter the lungs, and more. Many stroke patients also experience difficulty understanding or expressing themselves through language, trouble thinking clearly, and challenges performing daily living activities that are critical to maintaining one’s independence.

To minimize the deficits caused by stroke and help patients return to their highest level of function as quickly and safely as possible, a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals works collaboratively to devise and implement a rehabilitation care plan tailored to the individual needs of each patient. This team generally includes rehabilitation physicians; nurses; physical, occupational and speech therapists; psychologists; and social workers.

Patients who can tolerate physical activity and show potential for improvement, but still require additional care may benefit from acute inpatient rehabilitation at a facility, such as the Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix Rehabilitation Institute, to help transition from the hospital to a home or assisted living environment. As part of the care process, inpatient rehabilitation takes into consideration a patient’s driving ability, prospects of returning to work, caregiver needs and training, and appropriate living arrangements based on level of function and support network.

Stroke is a true medical emergency that requires immediate medical and rehabilitative attention, preferably at a hospital certified in acute stroke care.

To reduce your chances of a stroke, it is important to know and take steps to manage your individual risk factors. Everyone, particularly those with a family history of stroke, can benefit from managing their blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and heart conditions through medication and lifestyle adjustments as well as exercising, eating healthy and not smoking.

Those who have already suffered a stroke are at an increased risk of s secondary stroke. Rehabilitation can provide the guidance and support needed to prevent another attack.

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