Exciting Stroke-HEART™ Trials

February 26, 2019

Leaders of the JFK Johnson Stroke Recovery Program Stroke- HEART™ Trials are sharing preliminary data in presentations and conferences around the nation, generating significant interest in research with the potential to change the future of stroke rehabilitation in the United States.

“The ongoing data continue to reinforce our preliminary findings and the importance of comprehensive rehabilitation after stroke. The results have been very impressive,” said Talya K. Fleming, MD, Medical Director of the Aftercare and Stroke Recovery Program (SRP) at JFK Johnson and Co-Principal Investigator of the trial. “People are asking us, ‘How can we have a program like this instituted at our organization?'”

The research began in 2015 and provides stroke patients in the study group with 36 sessions of medically monitored interval cardiovascular training — as well as follow-up visits with a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician, psychological, nutritional, educational support and risk factor management. This is in addition to traditional physical, occupational and speech therapy.

In contrast, patients in the control group receive the traditional standard of care, which includes physical, occupational and speech therapy, and follow-up with their community physician.

Preliminary data has stirred excitement: One-year post-stroke follow-up has revealed a significantly lower unadjusted mortality rate in the patients who have gone through the Stroke Recovery Program than the average unadjusted mortality rate for the typical stroke patient from hospital admission to one-year post-stroke, according to the Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke hospitals. So far the study has enrolled over 250 patients into the Stroke Recovery Program. Sara J. Cuccurullo, MD, Vice President and Medical Director of JFK Johnson and a Co-Principal Investigator of the study, stressed that the research continues and preliminary data has been presented at multiple national meetings, including the American Heart Association ( AHA) Scientific Sessions National Conference, the AHA Northeastern Cerebrovascular Consortium, the Association of Academic Physiatrists, the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation National Annual Assembly, in addition to other venues.

Dr. Cuccurullo said the study also is exploring rates of hospital readmission and secondary incidence of recurrent stroke. “We are trying to prove, in a data-driven way, that stroke patients would benefit from a comprehensive program similar to what cardiac patients receive by participating in the CMS-funded Cardiac rehabilitation program,” says Dr. Cuccurullo. “If you have a stroke your chance of a second one in the first year is between 12 percent and 25 percent. We want people with stroke to experience the benefits of comprehensive follow-up rehabilitation to reduce their chance of another stroke and to improve their strength, function and overall health.”

Cardiac patients generally have more rehabilitation coverage under Medicare even though stroke and cardiac patients have almost identical cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and a history of smoking. The JFK Johnson Stroke Recovery Program encourages patients who have had a stroke to adopt behavioral and lifestyle changes to lead healthier lives.

A fundraiser is planned for May 4, 2019, to help support the Stroke Recovery Research at the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.

“Each day, we hear how this program is changing the lives of stroke survivors and their families,” Dr. Fleming stated.

“We want to support our patients who have experienced a stroke and we hope to raise the standard of care and advance the research to help stroke patients everywhere,” Dr. Cuccurullo said. JFK If you or someone that you know needs support recovering from a stroke please contact us at 732-321-7000 ext. 62134.