There are two main types of strokes a person can have. In an ischaemic stroke, an artery carrying blood to the brain is blocked, starving the brain of oxygen. In a hemorrhagic stroke, the artery bursts, causing the same oxygen starvation.

Depending upon the part of the brain the stroke affects, those who suffer one can be left with memory loss, paralysis, speech and communication problems and difficulty with cognitive tasks.

That means it’s vitally important not only that emergency medical care is given to those who’ve had a stroke as soon as possible, but that it is followed up with rehabilitation. Rehab doesn’t always restore those who’ve had a stroke to their previous level of functioning, but it can give them a much higher quality of life than if they miss out.

In Australian research conducted across 112 hospitals, researchers sought to find out the number of patients who were missing out on rehabilitation after having a stroke, and for what reason.

They used data from the Stroke Foundation’s 2014/15 National Stroke Audit to count up the number of people who were admitted to hospital for stroke, where they were treated (either in a specialised stroke unit or in a general ward) and their rehabilitation outcomes.

They made a number of interesting, and in some cases concerning, findings.

Almost a third of stroke victims weren’t admitted to a stroke unit after going to hospital, instead being treated elsewhere. The researchers say that’s a problem because the level of care in a general ward won’t be as good as when there are specialised healthcare practitioners who are well versed in stroke care and the problems which can arise.

10 per cent of stroke patients in Australia don’t get rehabilitation, which is a key part of their recovery.

What’s more, about 10 per cent of stroke patients weren’t offered rehabilitation after the incident – and that’s excluding people who didn’t want rehabilitation or weren’t suitable candidates for a rehabilitation program.

These were patients who were eligible and would likely benefit from rehabilitation, but who were being passed over.

The researchers said it wasn’t quite clear why that was occurring, but they did suggest that a lack of consistency in the way the patients were being assessed after their stroke could play a role.

Implications

There is now a nationally recommended Assessment for Rehabilitation tool for people who have suffered a stroke, which most hospitals should be using.

If you have a loved one who has a stroke, push to have them admitted to a stroke unit, rather than a general ward, at hospital, as the evidence suggests they will receive higher-quality care. And ask the treating doctor if they’ve assessed your friend or family member for rehabilitation, and which method they used.

Rehabilitation can make a big difference to recovery.

Last Reviewed: 21/02/2020

© Norman Swan Medical Communications.



References

For reference: Lynch, et al. (2019). Access to rehabilitation for patients with stroke in Australia. Medical Journal of Australia doi: 10.5694/mja2.12034.

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