Every stroke recovery prognosis is different because every stroke is different. This creates high variability when predicting the outcome of stroke.
However, even though variability is high, there are some well-studied factors that can help give you an idea of what to expect after stroke.
You’re about to learn which factors have significant impacts on your stroke recovery prognosis. Let’s get started.
Timely Treatment Affects the Stroke Recovery Prognosis
A stroke occurs when the supply of oxygen-rich blood in the brain becomes compromised, leading to the death of oxygen-deprived brain cells.
If a stroke is severe or left untreated, it can be fatal. Fortunately, advances in stroke diagnosis and treatment have reduced mortality rates in recent years. [Source: NCBI]
When stroke patients receive treatment within 3 hours of the stroke onset, they often have less disability 3 months after a stroke than those who received delayed care. [Source: CDC]
This is because time is brain! The sooner the flow of blood is properly restored in the brain, the less brain damage occurs.
How Age Affects Your Stroke Recovery Prognosis
Along with the timeliness of stroke treatment, the age of the stroke survivor also affects the long-term stroke recovery prognosis.
Generally speaking, younger stroke survivors have higher survival rates than older stroke survivors.
Here are some statistics from a study of 836 stroke patients:
- 57% of stroke survivors younger than 50-years-old survived beyond five years post-stroke
- 9% of stroke survivors older than 70-years-old survived beyond five years
As you can see, survival rates are grim for elderly stroke patients. Fortunately, age is not the only factor at play.
A person’s prior level-of-function, meaning how independent they were with daily tasks prior to their stroke, can also be an indicator of how well they will recover. If they were completely independent prior to their stroke, they will likely regain some of this independence. But, if they were already needing some degree of caregiver assistance for some reason, they may have less of a recovery.
Size of Stroke Significantly Affects Outcomes
Another well-known factor that affects the stroke recovery prognosis is the size of the stroke.
Patients who score 15 or lower on the NIHSS are considered to have sustained mild or moderate stroke. Those who score 16 or higher are considered to be massive stroke survivors.
The higher the score, the more serious the stroke secondary effects incurred.
Generally, the stroke recovery prognosis is more pessimistic for massive stroke and more optimistic for milder strokes. [Source: American Family Physician]
However, one study showed that the NIHSS inaccurately predicts outcomes for upper extremity, so scores should be viewed more as a benchmark than as a predictor of recovery. It can help provide some insight, but it is not absolute.
First 3 Months of Recovery Are Meaningful
Stroke rehabilitation often begins within the first 24-48 hours after stroke.
As the brain is rapidly trying to heal itself after injury, it enters a heightened state of plasticity where recovery happens more quickly.
Rehabilitation specialists act swiftly in the hospital to take advantage of this state. After all, neuroplasticity is the key to stroke recovery.
Generally, the fastest recovery occurs within the first 3 months after stroke while the brain is in this heightened state of plasticity.
Stroke rehabilitation will have greater impact during this time. Therefore, patients are encouraged to make the most of inpatient and outpatient therapies during this time.
Once the rate of recovery slows down, it results in the stroke recovery plateau that often occurs a few months after stroke.
The plateau does not mean that progress is stopping, but it has simply slowed down. Patients are advised to continue rigorous rehabilitation to keep recovering.
Long-Term Outlook and Prognosis for Stroke Survivors
Overall, the stroke recovery prognosis is more optimistic for younger patients with mild/moderate stroke, especially if they participate in rehabilitation within the first 3 months.
If you do not meet this criteria, try not to lose hope.
After the statistics have been considered, emotional and motivational factors should also be considered.
A rigorous stroke rehabilitation regimen and strong motivation can lead to better outcomes than statistics suggest.
You are not a number – you are a living, breathing human being. The fact that you survived shows that your body is capable of miracles.
Patients that plateaued and stopped rehabilitation during the early stages are often able to re-start rehabilitation and see progress. Anything is possible – but action is required to explore your potential.
A higher recovery may be within reach if you remain proactive, find innovative home therapies, and never give up hope.
Motivated action will lead to a more optimistic stroke recovery prognosis.