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A King's Recovery From Stroke Can Be Faster in His Own Castle

WebMD Health News

May 5, 2000 -- Patients are always anxious to get out of the hospital. Now there's a good reason why, at least for those who suffer a stroke. Home may be the best place for stroke victims to speed up their recovery. And, according to researchers, the sooner a patient is sent home, the better. However, it's not always affordable.

In a study in the May issue of the journal Stroke, researchers found that stroke patients who rehabilitated at home after only 10 days in the hospital had a faster recovery and, after three months, were farther advanced in assimilating back into their familiar surroundings then those who weren't sent home.

Lead researcher Nancy E. Mayo, PhD, tells WebMD that patients largely rehabilitated at home were able to perform activities of daily living at higher levels than those who received more traditional rehab. "Patients who received traditional care felt more isolated, more dependent, and showed less [control over their muscles]. We also found home care can cost less," Mayo says. She is an associate professor in the division of clinical epidemiology at Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.

One neurologist not surprised by the findings is Tim Lachman, MD, a neurologist in Philadelphia. "Most patients are happier and have better morale when they're in their home rather than in a hospital or a rehab center," Lachman tells WebMD. "A goal of stroke treatment is to get patients back into their own environment with the best amount of restored functioning."

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a stroke occurs when a blood vessel bringing oxygen and nutrients to the brain bursts or is clogged by a blood clot or by thickening of the artery wall. Because of this rupture or blockage, part of the brain doesn't get the blood flow it needs. Without oxygen, nerve cells in the affected area of the brain stop functioning within minutes. Besides being the third leading cause of death in the U.S., stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability -- both physical and mental.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., recently reported there were 751,000 strokes in the U.S. in 1999 and another 500,000 transient ischemic attacks, or "mini-strokes," affecting a total of more than 1.2 million people.

The AHA says most gains in a person's ability to function in the first 30 days after a stroke are due to the body's natural recovery. The balance comes from rehabilitation. David Tong, MD, at the Stanford University Stroke Center, says the ultimate goal of rehabilitation is to return the patient to as independent a lifestyle as possible. "Successful stroke rehabilitation is dependent on many factors, including the severity of brain damage and the cooperation of family and friends. Not surprisingly, the attitude of the patient is a key factor in speed and degree of recovery. A positive outlook and high level of determination may facilitate recovery," he says.

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