The purpose of this study was to describe the outcomes of patients with a severe stroke admitted to a specialized “slow stream” rehabilitation program and to develop a model to predict discharge destination.
Chart review of 196 consecutive non-ambulatory (“lower-band”) stroke patients admitted between 1996-2001, to a specialized in-patient rehabilitation unit designed to accommodate the needs of patients with profound disabilities, and who were considered inappropriate for conventional inpatient rehabilitation programs. Special features of this program included the availability of an independent living unit, therapies tailored to individual tolerance and the opportunity to remain on the unit for an extended period until such time that the patients' rehabilitation potential had been maximized.
Patients were admitted to the unit after a median of 49 days following stroke onset. Their median admission and discharge functional independence measure (FIMTM) scores were 46 and 70, respectively. The improvement in ability to perform self-care tasks was statistically significant (Z= -11.18, p<0.0001). By discharge, 54 patients (28%) were able to ambulate independently (with or without an assistive device), while 142 patients (72%) remained wheelchair dependent. Eighty-five patients (43%) returned to their own home upon rehabilitation discharge, while the remainder were admitted to nursing homes or hospitals closer to the patients' home. Admission FIM score, age, no previous history of stroke and male sex were the variables found to most strongly predict discharge home.
Patients with severe strokes who received individualized care on a highly specialized stroke rehabilitation unit achieved impressive functional outcomes despite a lag of seven weeks post stroke before rehabilitation was initiated. Many patients were no longer wheelchair dependent and almost half returned home. Active rehabilitation should not be limited to “middle-band” stroke patients.