Stroke 101 in the Year 2020
When you hear that someone you know has had a stroke, the most dire images may fill your imagination. A stroke can be devastating or fatal for many, depending on the kind of stroke and the severity.
Yet, recent developments in the field of stroke rehabilitation offers more promise than ever before for victims of a stroke.
There are three kinds of stroke, but they can be broken into two categories: bleeding and clotting.
Ischemic strokes are clotting strokes. They are treatable because the clots which obstruct a blood vessel in your brain can be “busted” with the help of tPA medication. Additionally, a surgeon may insert a catheter through blood vessels to retrieve the clot.
A trans-ischemic attack (TIA) is often called a mini-stroke. It’s a temporary blockage of a blood vessel in the brain and should serve as a warning sign that future strokes are very likely. TIAs clear on their own, but should still be taken seriously.
Hemorrhagic strokes are bleeding strokes. They happen when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, because the vessel is weakened. Medication may be used to help stop the bleeding and in rare cases, a surgeon may attempt to clip or coil the vessel to prevent further hemorrhaging.
After the Stroke
With any stroke, parts of the brain are robbed of oxygenated blood for a period of time, leading to a loss of function. But that loss of function need not be complete or permanent.
Paralysis, motor control issues, aphasia (problems using or understanding language), sensory disturbance, and thinking and memory can be helped by specially trained healthcare providers like occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech therapists. These professionals use tried and true exercises and activities especially designed to help stroke victims regain function.
In addition, technology continues to advance that will reshape the way therapists help stroke patients.
Stroke Rehab 2020
One company, Saebo, specializes in stroke rehabilitation technology. (NOTE: This is not an endorsement for the company, paid or otherwise.) Here are just a few of the technologies they are introducing.
Video Games – Combined with gear worn by the patient, video games are an engaging way to stimulate the brain and encourage recovery.
Robotics – Robotic exoskeletons attach to the affected part of the body to help enable movement, freeing the caregiver to pay closer attention to the mechanics.
Body Weight Support Systems – Recovery devices for stroke patients who have difficulty relearning to walk.
Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation – Various forms of electrical stimulation to parayzed muscles can improve or restore function.
Rehab Glove – This is more of a low-tech innovation that a patient wears to ease the burden on their hands and fingers as they work to regain function.
In addition to this new wave of therapy tools, researchers at Stanford are investigating the value of transcranial magnetic stimulation much earlier in the stroke recovery journey. TMS is in the earliest phase of research with relation to strokes but they were able to improve one patient’s aphasia, so the approach shows promise.
Having a stroke remains a devastating and potentially world-changing event for people. But there’s hope for a better future and we happily celebrate that hope during Stroke Awareness Month.