Stanford Stroke Center

Rehabilitation Following Stroke

Because of the tremendous advances in stroke treatment, along with the ever-increasing sophistication of rehabilitation techniques, the outlook for stroke patients has never been more hopeful.

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.

Depending on the area of the brain affected by the stroke, physical and mental damage may be mild or severe, ranging from dizziness and confusion, to sensory loss, to paralysis and even death. Patients with mild strokes or those who obtained successful medical therapy may need little or no rehabilitation.

After a stroke, other blood vessels may be able to take over for the damaged blood vessel. This allows some cells to recover, although others may still die. If the blood supply is cut off due to a clot, the body works to dissolve the clot. This means that the damaged part of the brain can sometimes improve or return to normal without rehabilitation. Most stroke patients, however, will benefit from some type of rehabilitation.

Stroke Disabilities

Different areas of the brain control different bodily functions. When certain brain cells are not able to function due to stroke, the parts of the body controlled by those cells are also unable to function.

For instance, if the left hemisphere of the brain is damaged, most of the effects will occur on the right side of the body. It's also important to note that most areas of the brain will continue to function normally, despite substantial damage in other areas.

Some of the most common results of a stroke are hemiparesis (paralysis on one side of the body), aphasia (the loss of ability to speak or to understand language), spatial-perceptual deficits, learning difficulties, memory loss, behavioral/emotional changes, and loss of motor skills.

If someone you know has suffered some of these disabilities as a result of stroke, there are many community resources available that can help you cope with the situation and learn how to provide the proper support and encouragement. The Stanford Stroke Center can provide you with an up-to-date list of community resources.

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