Recovering From a Stroke? Good Outcomes Possible, Resources Available, says MU Expert
May is national stroke awareness month
May 19, 2009
Story Contact: Christian Basi, (573) 882-4430, BasiC@missouri.edu
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Yearly, almost 800,000 people in the United States experience a stroke. For most, the initial event is followed by an extended stay in the hospital and several weeks in a rehabilitation center. However, after they return home, many stroke survivors have trouble readjusting to life, sometimes with diminished capability, but there is help. According to Giulianne Krug, an assistant clinical professor of occupational therapy in the School of Health Professions, there are a number of resources available for people who have recently experienced a stroke.
"After a patient has completed rehabilitation in the hospital or a rehabilitation center, there may only be a limited number of therapy visits for outpatient and/or home health therapy," Krug said. "Arriving home, a stroke survivor might be so overwhelmed with everything that has changed that it could be difficult to keep track of all of the information that was received at the hospital."
Krug has several suggestions for stroke survivors to continue their rehabilitation:
- Search for a local Disabilities Commission
- Contact the local chapters of the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.
- Look for transportation alternatives such as para-transit, OATS, or Services for Independent Living.
- Contact a state council on disabilities
- Look for a nearby higher education institution. Even if it does not specialize in health professions, it may have other services that would be helpful for stroke survivors.
- Find more information at the following websites:
Krug also suggests that stroke survivors investigate the different types of therapies available. Stroke therapy is not a one-size-fits-all treatment plan, and different therapies might have different results. Additionally, looking for novel therapy treatments that are just being made available or are still in the experimental stage might be attractive to some individuals, Krug said. Some therapies include:
- Functional electrical stimulation - low frequency electrical pulses are administered to a specific muscle group to stimulate muscle response.
- Constraint-Induced Therapy - the patient is required to use the weak arm repetitively, while the strong arm is restrained in a sling or mitt.
- SaeboFlex orthosis - a spring-loaded splint that is placed on the weak hand and wrist, helping the patient to grasp and release, while also helping the fingers to regain normal movement and dexterity.
"The research is showing us that the ability to establish new neural connections in the brain, to rewire the brain, is indefinite," Krug said. "We have functional MRI studies now that are showing us the changes in the brain that occur years following a stroke. Technology is showing us that particular therapies can result in changes neurologically, but change may occur slowly over time. It is important to remember that the brain's ability to recover from a stroke is indefinite, but stroke survivors need to search for help in their communities to continue their recovery."
For more information about these and other therapies available for stroke survivors, please contact Krug at KrugG@health.missouri.edu or 573-882-3166.