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Walking faster after stroke, managing chemobrain after cancer

November 29, 2016

Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute researchers recently presented results from two studies at the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine. The annual conference is an expansive educational program covering brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, pain, cancer, pediatric rehabilitation and neuroplasticity.

Nancy Flinn, PhD, OTR/L, senior scientific adviser, showed how new gait guidelines have improved the walking speed of stroke patients. Courage Kenny developed more aggressive guidelines based on best practices and began using them during physical therapy sessions in 2015. On average, patients doubled their improvement in speed during therapy after the implementation of the guidelines.

"Gait speed has a big impact of how people do in the community. The gains patients made in gait speed meant that, on average, patients were now walking at community walking speeds. If they went to the mall or the grocery store, they would be able to move at the speed of others, so they are safer, because they are less likely to get bumped by others who are passing them," said Flinn.

Mary Vining Radomski, PhD, OTR/L, senior scientific adviser, presented the results of study on cancer-related cognitive dysfunction, also known as chemobrain that involved 28 patients treated for breast cancer.

"Patients describe feeling as if in a cognitive fog - difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, inability to multitask - all of which interferes with performing the tasks and roles that they value. For some, these are short term problems; for others, the problem lingers for months, even years," said Radomski.

The study, which was funded by the Courage Kenny Foundation, concluded that occupational therapy can improve everyday functioning and a patient's ability to manage issues with mood, stress, and fatigue, even though brain-related factors do not change.

"While the cause of cancer-related cognitive dysfunction is unclear, it seems that multiple factors associated with the cancer experience - stress, fatigue, disruption of daily routines - are at least in part to blame," Radomski said. Radomski reported that cancer survivors may be able to lift the cognitive fog by learning strategies to manage some of these factors. Robin Newman, OTD, OTR of Boston University, co-presented with Radomski.
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About Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute

Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, part of Allina Health, was created in 2013 by the merger of Courage Center and Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. The Institute provides a continuum of rehabilitation services for people with short- and long-term conditions, injuries and disabilities in communities throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute has multiple locations, and numerous programs and services. For more information visit allinahealth.org/couragekenny.

Allina Health is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of illness and enhancing the greater health of individuals, families and communities throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin. A not-for-profit health care system, Allina Health cares for patients from beginning to end-of-life through its 90+ clinics, 13 hospitals, 14 retail pharmacies, specialty care centers and specialty medical services, home care, senior transitions, hospice care, home oxygen and medical equipment and emergency medical transportation services.

For more information, visit us at allinahealth.org, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Healthy Set Go.

Allina Health

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