Why Inpatient Rehabilitation Matters for Stroke Survivors

Why Inpatient Rehabilitation Matters for Stroke Survivors

Every year, more than 795,000 people in the US suffer a stroke. The results can be death, disability, and loss of independence. Many factors affect the outcome of a stroke. However, appropriate and timely acute medical care can make a radical difference and is paramount in treating and recovering from a stroke. Depending on the type of stroke, clot-busting drugs can be used within the first 3 hours following a stroke.

Following acute medical treatment, stroke rehabilitation should begin as soon as possible to restore lost function. Unfortunately, due to the high costs of medical care, the trend has been to refer patients to skilled nursing facilities (SNF), home health agencies, or outpatient facilities instead of inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRF), thinking that less intensive levels of care will control the cost of treatment.

A 2016 study by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA) found the opposite to be true. “Guidelines for Adult Stroke Rehabilitation and Recovery,” published in the AHA Journal, Stroke, examined best clinical practices in the rehabilitation care of adults recovering from stroke. The researchers discovered that, on average, patients who receive post-stroke care at a skilled nursing facility experience lower functional outcomes than those who receive post-stroke care at an inpatient rehabilitation facility.

Additionally, a lower percentage of patients return home following treatment at an SNF rather than an IRF. These findings were reinforced by a 2019 article in the JAMA Network Open, which reported that stroke patients who went to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital (IRF) fared significantly better in mobility and self-care than patients who went to a skilled nursing facility (SNF) (Ickypo Hong, et al., 2019).

Nationally, the American Stroke Association has taken note of the statistics, strongly recommending stroke survivors begin their recovery with an inpatient rehabilitation stay. Details can be found online at www.stroke.org/recovery.

What is it about inpatient rehabilitation facilities that best support stroke recovery? An inpatient rehab facility is the only setting that provides regular medical management by a rehabilitation medicine physician, intensive specialized therapeutic interventions, rehabilitation nursing, and staffing protocols that appropriately address the needs of these complex patients.

IRFs have requirements that greatly benefit complex patients such as stroke survivors. For example, in an IRF, a physician visit is required at least three times per week and often occurs daily. Meanwhile, in skilled facilities, physician visits are only required once a month. In an IRF, the patient must receive three hours of professional therapy (between PT/OT/speech) at least five days per week. There are no such requirements in skilled nursing facilities, leading to an average of only 30 minutes of therapy per day.

Another aspect of care that can improve patient outcomes in post-stroke recovery is the utilization of advanced rehabilitation technology. Inpatient rehabilitation facilities have turned to robotics-assisted and virtual reality-assisted devices to deliver more significant functional gains, especially in neuro-rehabilitation in stroke patients.

Inpatient rehabilitation facilities combine all of these tools - intensive medical management and rehabilitation, advanced technology, and coordinated and patient-centered care - so survivors see more significant improvements in a shorter period of time and can return to the community.

When exerting your right to choose, look for a facility with advanced technology and experienced staff dedicated to stroke clinical protocols. If your loved one has suffered a stroke, advocate for your loved one to go to an IRF. It will significantly impact their recovery and their ability to return to a more independent quality of life.

Suzanne Jones, PT, is a certified Neuro-Development Treatment physical therapist working with patients at Allied Services Scranton Rehab Hospital.

Inpatient Stroke Recovery at Allied Services

At Allied Services Integrated Health System, we provide comprehensive rehabilitation services in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. Inpatient stroke rehabilitation is the first step in their recovery for many stroke patients. 

To learn more about how we can help with stroke recovery, please call us at 570-348-1359 in Scranton and at 570-826-3885 in Wilkes-Barre.

Outpatient Rehab Services for Stroke

At Allied Services, our Stroke Recovery Program includes comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation services that help increase patients' independence and quality of life after a stroke. Our rehabilitation medical professionals are highly trained in treating stroke, whether in the days, weeks, or years following a stroke.

To learn more about how we can help with stroke recovery, please call us at 570-348-1360 in Scranton and at 570-826-3900 in Wilkes-Barre.

Learn more about Stroke Recovery at Allied Services