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Patients are not receiving enough rehab after stroke

“Rehab therapy helps maximise this recovery, with higher rehab therapy doses helping more, but what we found in this study is that most patients are getting rather small doses of rehab therapy.”

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According to a new study, stroke patients are not receiving enough rehabilitation therapy, despite the evidence that higher amounts can reduce the likelihood of long-term disability.

This study examined over 500 patients across 28 acute care hospitals in their first year following a stroke.

This research is the first of its kind in the United States to discover that patients who had more severe strokes received higher amounts of rehabilitation therapy, which was a welcome finding to the research team. However, the study’s lead author, Steven Cramer warns that: “In the bigger picture, the findings reinforce that too many patients are missing out on a golden opportunity to maximise recovery during a critical period following a stroke.”

Dr Cramer, who is a stroke neurologist, explains how the brain works after stroke: “In the initial weeks after a stroke, the brain is ready to undergo maximum rewiring to get people back on their feet. 

The study’s key findings

Many patients that were tracked as part of this study did not receive any rehabilitation therapy after their stroke. After the point of three months, one-third of partners had not received physical therapy, almost half had not received occupational therapy, and over 6 in 10 did not receive speech therapy.

Those who did receive rehabilitation therapy typically had six to eight sessions by three months after their stroke, and between 0 and 1.5 sessions the rest of the year.

Where patients were sent following hospitalisation also mattered. Those who were discharged home had the lowest levels of rehabilitation therapy, regardless of the severity of their stroke.

Hispanic patients received disproportionately lower amounts of physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Cramer also mentioned that it is important for future research to examine the feasibility of providing higher therapy doses to stroke patients.

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