The role of physiotherapy for stroke survivors

25/Mar/2021     Health

A blockage or burst artery in the brain is called a stroke. During a stroke, blood is restricted from carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain and this causes cells to die. People can quickly lose function and control of their body depending on the area of the brain impacted by the stroke.

Once a stroke survivor has been assessed and stabilised, usually in an Emergency Department, they are then transferred to a specialised stroke care unit. Once transferred, it is best practice  for a stroke survivor to be seen as quickly as possible by a physiotherapist to assess what areas of the body have been impacted  by the stroke, what the person can safely do for themselves and to give the nursing team a safe mobility plan.

Active Rehab Senior Physiotherapist Neurology Karl Harm works in the Mater Centre for Neurosciences - Stroke Unit and said it is important for the physiotherapy team to assess a stroke survivor as soon as they come on to the ward.

“Ideally, we would like to give the patient a full stroke assessment once they have been admitted from the Emergency Department to the ward, however this is not always appropriate. The main areas of assessment that we focus on are mobility, lower limb movement, dizziness, vestibular function and balance.” Karl said.

“When medically cleared, the faster we can have a patient up and moving around, the better their recovery will be. Our team would normally see a stroke patient at least twice a day while they were on the ward allowing us to continually progress their recovery.

“We also provide therapy in conjunction with the occupational therapy team ,  who focus on the upper limb function of the patients. This means between the two teams we are able to work collaboratively together on the best outcome for the patient.”

Karl explains the physiotherapy team not only work with the occupational therapy team but nursing staff, doctors, speech pathologists and other specialties involved in stroke care.

“The stroke unit is a multidisciplinary service offering very high acuity care for stroke survivors, we are able to work together as a team creating a sound pathway to recovery for the patient,” Karl said.

“We think it’s a great service that we are able to provide, and we can see the benefit to the patients. Once they have completed their time in the unit they may need to go to rehabilitation for further care or they may be well enough to send home.

“The physiotherapy team are also able to follow up with patients once they have been discharged with regular appointments to ensure they are keeping on track with their recovery and to provide a full continuum of care.”

Additional information                                  

For more information about strokes please visit, Signs of stroke — Stroke Foundation - Australia and be wary of the signs of a stroke,

Face Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?

Arms Can they lift both arms?

Speech Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?

Time Is critical. If you see any of these signs call 000 straight away.

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