Stroke survivors can help future recovery
A stroke can be permanently debilitating. Every year, of the nearly 800,000 Americans who have a stroke, only 10% make a full recovery, according to the American Stroke Association. In fact, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine are studying stroke survivors in the hopes that they can help people recover more completely. This summer, several clinical trials are recruiting people who have had a stroke as well as healthy older adults.
“The research that we have ongoing is generally focused on getting people to a higher level of physical functioning after the stroke,” said Dr. Kelly Westlake, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science.
“Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability in the older population,” Westlake said. “As we learn more and more about the mechanisms that can potentially promote functional recovery, it is critical that we develop and evaluate rehabilitation interventions that target these important recovery processes.”
Most of the university’s studies require at least one in-person visit to the Veterans Administration Medical Center or School of Medicine in downtown Baltimore (free parking is available). One study, however, is web-based and can be done entirely from home. Studies run from a couple of visits to up to 12 weeks in length. Participants need not be veterans.
Most people who have had a stroke are eligible for at least one of the ongoing studies, regardless of their level of impairment, or time after stroke. Older adults without strokes are also needed in some studies that are evaluating the general effects of the interventions in older populations before testing in a stroke population.
“We always encourage any interested individuals with a stroke or their caregivers to contact us early, even before formal rehabilitation services have ended, so that we can find a study match as soon as possible and avoid delays in treatment,” she said. “Some of our studies include patients within the first few months after stroke, while others include individuals who are six months or more post-stroke.”
Studies include robot-assisted rehabilitation, more
One 12-week study will look at how well protein supplements and resistance training improve strength and balance in stroke survivors. “This study aims to improve physical function, quality of life and overall wellness and decrease fatigue,” according to researchers.
Another clinical trial will use robots to rehabilitate arms or legs. A third study, which lasts about two months, will train stroke survivors to transfer their weight carefully while walking. “The information collected will guide future interventions aimed at improving walking speed in stroke,” according to the study protocol.
“All the studies are trying to develop more effective rehabilitation protocols in order to improve the functional outcomes after stroke,” Westlake said.
If you or a loved one has had a stroke, or if you’re a healthy adult who wants to participate in a clinical trial, call (410) 605-7179.