Published on May 05, 2014

Inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation for stroke patients

Improving stroke patients’ strength, joint mobility, and more.

swallow testStroke recovery is a long process. That’s why Mercy Philadelphia offers inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation that work together to help patients recover. If a patient has difficulty speaking or swallowing, Mercy Philadelphia’s speech pathologists work with them before they leave the hospital. At times, a patient may require a special diet; they may also require outpatient therapy.

One particularly successful treatment for swallowing disorders is VitalStim®. This FDA-approved therapy involves electrodes placed on the exterior of the neck; trained therapists use a small electrical current to stimulate and target muscles needed for swallowing.

“It creates a contraction; you are retraining the muscles to swallow properly,” explains Liz Holda-Walker, MS, CCC-SLP, who is VitalStim®-certified. “It’s typically much stronger and more effective than exercises alone.”

The procedure is painless for patients, who typically report a light tingling feeling. But the recovery process does not end upon discharge.

Mercy’s outpatient physical therapists work with patients to improve their strength, joint mobility, balance and range of motion. They also teach stroke patients how to adjust to everyday activities that are now more challenging, such as getting out of bed, getting dressed, walking, and finding the best way in and out of a car. Therapists listen to each patient’s limitations and tailor outpatient rehab to each particular need, which may include return to employment as well. The improvements patients make at Mercy are often remarkable, says Kelly Duszak, PT.

“One stroke patient comes to mind: In the beginning, he needed a walker and brace, and he needed a lot of assistance to transfer out of bed and chairs,” she recalls. “He moved to a cane and now he needs nothing to help him walk, except the brace, and can move independently.”

“It took about a year and a half,” she adds. “It’s a slow but gradual process, and you see wonderful and inspiring changes over time.”