Purpose of Review: Rehabilitation is an important aspect of the continuum of care in stroke. With advances in the acute treatment of stroke, more patients will survive stroke with varying degrees of disability. Research in the past decade has expanded our understanding of the mechanisms underlying stroke recovery and has led to the development of new treatment modalities. This article reviews and summarizes the key concepts related to poststroke recovery.
Recent Findings: Good data now exist by which one can predict recovery, especially motor recovery, very soon after stroke onset. Recent trials have not demonstrated a clear benefit associated with very early initiation of rehabilitative therapy after stroke in terms of improvement in poststroke outcomes. However, growing evidence suggests that shorter and more frequent sessions of therapy can be safely started in the first 24 to 48 hours after a stroke. The optimal amount or dose of therapy for stroke remains undetermined, as more intensive treatments have not been associated with better outcomes compared to standard intensities of therapy. Poststroke depression adversely affects recovery across a variety of measures and is an important target for therapy. Additionally, the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) appears to benefit motor recovery through pleiotropic mechanisms beyond their antidepressant effect. Other pharmacologic approaches also appear to have a benefit in stroke rehabilitation.
Summary: A comprehensive rehabilitation program is essential to optimize poststroke outcomes. Rehabilitation is a process that uses three major principles of recovery: adaptation, restitution, and neuroplasticity. Based on these principles, multiple different approaches, both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic, exist to enhance rehabilitation. In addition to neurologists, a variety of health care professionals are involved in stroke rehabilitation. Successful rehabilitation involves understanding the natural history of stroke recovery and a multidisciplinary approach with judicious use of resources to identify and treat common poststroke sequelae.