SOURCE: Heart and Stroke Foundation

Heart and Stroke Foundation

September 15, 2016 07:30 ET

Stroke Rehabilitation at a Crossroads: We Must Find Ways to Deliver Intensive Therapy to Meet the Demands of an Aging Population

While Huge Strides have Been Made in Post-Stroke Rehabilitation, New Technologies and More Community-Based Therapy Are Needed, Canadian Stroke Congress Told

QUEBEC CITY, QC--(Marketwired - September 15, 2016) - As the number of people surviving stroke and living with long-term disability continues to rise, Canadian health systems must deploy new approaches to maximize stroke recovery and relieve the burden on caregivers.

More than 85 per cent of people survive a stroke, but "many people are left with significant disabilities," says Dr. Robert Teasell, research director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Western University. He will address 800 delegates at his opening lecture today at the Canadian Stroke Congress. At least 405,000 Canadians live with long-term stroke disability -- a number expected to almost double in the next two decades due to the aging population, according to a recent study published in Stroke.

Delivering timely focused rehabilitation is critical in the days, weeks and months after a stroke when the injured brain is primed for recovery. It is during this "window of opportunity" when intensive therapy can help people achieve the best possible recovery, says Dr. Teasell. "Early and intensive stroke rehabilitation is becoming the recognized standard of care across Canada and that care has been steadily improving."

Dr. Teasell notes, however, that "stroke rehabilitation is now at a crossroads." Although stroke rehabilitation has gotten much better in Canada, an aging population and better acute care is increasing the number of stroke survivors who need therapy. Rehabilitation must continue to innovate and adapt to cope with increasing demand.

There is growing evidence that more rehabilitation therapy should be delivered in the community, he says. "This includes not just therapy, but other aspects of care such as better screening and assessment for depression, which if not diagnosed and treated can negate some of our best rehab efforts," says Dr. Teasell, who is medical director of the stroke rehabilitation program at Parkwood Institute in London, ON.

Economic analyses reveal the health-care system would save at least $2 for every $1 spent on outpatient or community-based therapies, says Dr. Teasell, who leads the evidence-based Review of Stroke Rehabilitation, the go-to resource for stroke rehabilitation.

Improved support for caregivers -- who experience greater physical demands, higher stress and reduced quality of life -- will also ensure more stroke survivors are able to remain at home.

As well, health systems need to harness proven new technologies such as robotics, virtual reality, video games, brain stimulation, and innovative new pharmacological treatments to enhance therapy and brain recovery, Dr. Teasell says.

"Through our advocacy efforts and our investment in research and clinical trials, we are working hard to improve recovery for Canadians living with stroke," says Dr. Patrice Lindsay, director of stroke for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. "The Heart and Stroke Foundation's Canadian Stroke Best Practice Recommendations are informed by the latest research to provide clinicians with up-to-date evidence-based guidelines for the prevention and management of stroke, and to promote optimal recovery and reintegration for people who have experienced stroke (including patients, families, and informal caregivers)."

The Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery, which funds some of Dr. Teasell's research, brings together the top stroke recovery researchers from universities and hospitals across Canada and around the world to restore lives affected by stroke.

"The reality is, even with optimal prevention and treatment, there will be many people living with severe disability from stroke," says Dr. Dale Corbett, scientific director and CEO of the HSF Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery. "Research is crucial to finding new ways to make significant improvements in people's lives."


  • 62,000 strokes occur in Canada each year -- that is one stroke every nine minutes.
  • More than 400,000 Canadians are living with long-term disability from stroke.
  • In the next two decades, the number of people living with long-term stroke disability will increase by 80 per cent to 726,000.
  • Brain cells die at a rate of 1.9 million per minute after stroke.
  • Each year, more than 13,000 Canadians die from stroke.
  • Half of Canadians report having a close friend or family member who survived a stroke.
  • Stoke is a powerful predictor of dementia: Having a stroke more than doubles someone's risk of developing dementia.

The Congress is being held in Quebec City from September 15 to 17, 2016. Follow us on Twitter @strokecongress, #CanadianStrokeCongress.

Statements and conclusions of study authors are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect Foundation or CSC policy or position. The Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Stroke Congress make no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability.

Co-hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Stroke Consortium, the Canadian Stroke Congress is a uniquely Canadian forum for experts to share the latest research findings, exchange ideas, and make the connections which will change the future of stroke. It brings together researchers, neurologists, nurses, rehabilitation specialists, policy makers, health system decision makers -- and many others -- in an unprecedented opportunity to improve the brain health of Canadians.

The Canadian Stroke Consortium (CSC) is the professional organization for stroke neurologists, leading continuing education, advocacy and research for health care professionals. The CSC has several membership categories allowing a broad spectrum of health care professionals to benefit from its educational programs, clinical research, and advocacy efforts.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation's mission is to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery. A volunteer-based health charity, we strive to tangibly improve the health of every Canadian family, every day. Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen.

Contact Information

  • For media interviews, please contact:
    Diane Hargrave
    416-467-9954, ext. 104

    After September 17, 2016, contact:
    Jane-Diane Fraser
    Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
    (613) 691-4020
    Cell from Sept 15-17: 613-406-3282