Stroke survivors cite spasticity as one of top symptoms impacting daily living

Seventy percent of stroke survivors living with spasticity and their caregivers ranked the condition as one of the top three symptoms impacting their life post-stroke, according to a recent survey.

“It is critical for physicians to address spasticity with their post-stroke patients at the onset of, and throughout, their follow-up care,” Elliot J. Roth, MD, medical director of the patient recovery unit and attending physician, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, said in a press release. “Spasticity is a disabling condition, but often, patients are either uncomfortable or too overwhelmed to discuss it with their physician.”

Two online surveys were conducted by Allergan Inc. and the National Stroke Association: the first survey included 100 stroke survivors with spasticity and their caregivers; the second survey questioned 780 health care professionals, including 300 neurologists, 220 primary care physicians, 160 physical therapy specialists and 100 physiatrists.

Although more than 95% of the physicians surveyed believed spasticity has a moderate to severe impact on their patients’ lives, physical therapists and physiatrists were found to be more focused on helping manage the after effects of a stroke, with 22% percent of physical therapists and physiatrists and 38% of physiotherapists reporting that their focus in the first 6 months of a stroke patient’s follow-up care is on understanding and discussing physical complications like spasticity. Thirty-one percent of neurologists and 27% percent of primary care physicians said they focus on preventing a secondary stroke, and 22% of neurologists and 26% of primary caregivers focus on managing acute needs when treating stroke survivors.

The surveys also found nearly 50% of stroke survivors and their caregivers are unaware of available treatment options.

“The focus after someone has experienced a stroke is so commonly on preventing a second stroke, that rehabilitation goals are covered in broad terms. This can leave patients and their caregivers feeling unprepared for a larger discussion about the post-stroke symptoms they may be experiencing, including spasticity,” Roth said. “It’s critical that patients and caregivers understand that even if a person has been experiencing spasticity for years, in many cases there are ways to help manage the condition.”

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