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Measuring Stroke Severity & Recovery Time

It happens suddenly, but can take months or years to recover. A stroke can be scary for the patient and for their loved ones. However, after the event, it is important for medical professionals to measure the severity of the stroke which will help determine the recovery time and outcomes for the patient. There are currently two ways to measure stroke severity, the HIH Stroke Scale, and the 6S Score.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke, which can happen to anyone at any time, is actually a brain attack. Simply put, during a stroke, a portion of the brain is cut off from blood flow. When this happens, the brain cells in that area are deprived of oxygen and this causes them to die.

Abilities that are controlled by the brain cells that died may be lost. This can include loss of the ability to speak, muscle control or even memory.

The severity of the stroke is determined by how much damage is done and where in the brain the stroke occurs.

While some people do recover completely, over 75 percent of stroke victims will have some kind of lasting disability.

In the United States, strokes are the fifth leading cause of death, and a stroke happens once every 40 seconds. There are approximately 800,000 strokes each year, and up to 80 percent of all strokes can actually be prevented.

Stroke Severity Scale

There are two types of stroke severity scales. The first is the NIHSS Score. This stroke severity score has a 15-item neurologic examination that is used to evaluate the effect of acute cerebral infarction. It examines:

  • Language
  • Levels of consciousness
  • Visual field loss
  • Motor strength
  • Extraocular movement
  • Sensory loss
  • Dysarthria
  • Ataxia

The patient will be rated on a scale with zero being normal and numbers reaching higher indicating a greater severity of impact due to stroke. The NIH stroke scale score can be completed in under 10 minutes.

To evaluate the severity of the stroke a person has suffered, they are asked a series of questions. Some questions require a person to give a correct verbal answer, while others ask them to complete simple motor functions, such as gripping an object. Some common questions on the NIHSS scale assessment include asking:

  • What month is it?
  • How old are you?
  • Can you raise your eyebrows?
  • Can you show me your teeth?

There is no sliding scale on these questions. They either get the right the first time, or they don’t.

The second stroke severity assessment is the 6S Score. This is a newer assessment that uses six signs and symptoms of strokes to determine the severity.

The six signs are graded on a point scale. The total number of points for all six signs is fifteen and the least number of points is zero.

Stroke Recovery

Regardless of where your loved one falls on the stroke severity assessment, there are steps you can help them take to recover from their stroke. Some stroke patients will see gradual progress on a monthly basis while others may take years before they see improvement, if any.

In either case, it is important for the stroke victim to work on getting back to their normal routine as much as possible. That’s what rehabilitation is all about. This process deals with working to reduce any disabilities that may have come out of the stroke and finding new skills to lessen those limitations.

In addition, connecting with support groups for practical and emotional support can go a long way to help both the stroke patient and their caregiver.

While any stroke is a serious situation, it is important to have a good understanding of where your loved one falls on a stroke assessment scale. From there, you and your loved one’s team of health care professionals can determine the right road to recovery for them.