Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Nearly 800,000 people per year suffer strokes, and more than 140,000 people die in this country due to stroke or complications of stroke. Survivors are often left with extensive deficits, which can include weakness coupled with loss of language and memory.
The majority of stroke survivors require inpatient rehabilitation for maximum recovery, where the typical hospital stay is up to three weeks. Each of these stroke survivors will have follow-up after hospital discharge by a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) specialist. Rehabilitation therapies (such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy) nearly always continue in an outpatient setting after discharge to home.
It’s well-documented that most of the natural recovery after stroke occurs in the first three months after injury, and is certainly completed within six months. However, functional recovery – getting the highest level of function from post-stroke abilities – doesn’t come with a time limit. That is, continued recovery of function can happen for years – even decades – after stroke.
This is an important distinction. After successful discharge to home following inpatient rehabilitation, stroke survivors have continued medical management by their primary care physician. Paradoxically, the extensive early recovery often seen as the result of inpatient rehabilitation can become something of a “dual-edged sword.” That is (for lack of a better word), most stroke survivors get lost to follow-up by a rehabilitation specialist. This places an additional burden on their primary care physician, who now has the challenging task of overseeing their complicated medical conditions (reducing risk of recurrent stroke), while simultaneously acting as the healthcare system’s “gate keeper.”
Each year, new technologies and treatments emerge to enhance recovery after stroke. Over the last few years, robotic therapy has become a promising part of post-stroke rehabilitation. Thus, it’s critical that primary care physicians periodically refer their patients who have had strokes for a “second look” by a specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The team at Casa Colina – physiatrists and therapists – have stayed on the leading edge of these emerging treatments, rightly selecting and applying those that have been shown to be successful, modifying other approaches after early trials, and rejecting those new techniques that haven’t consistently demonstrated long-term benefit for the patient.
For information about rehabilitation services at Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare, please visit www.casacolina.org. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bogey, please call (909) 596-7733, extension 3800.
Ross Bogey, D.O., is board-certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He is Director of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency Program at Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare.