New Hope for Stroke Patients at Scripps Encinitas

Constrained induced therapy helps stroke survivors relearn lost skills

Many stroke survivors have given up hope of ever using a limb that has been paralyzed by a stroke. Now at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas a new therapy called constrained induced therapy (CIT) is having great success with patients. Scripps Encinitas is the only hospital in North County to have this program.

Constrained induced therapy helps stroke survivors relearn how to use their affected extremity. CIT involves the binding or constraining of the “good” hand that has not been affected by the stroke. A padded mitt is placed over the “good” hand and the patient is encouraged to use only the “bad” or affected hand during his or her therapy.

Many stroke patients will stop using the “bad” or affected extremity and compensate for its loss by increasing the use of the “good” or unaffected extremity. Their quality of life suffers as they have less mobility and often become dependent on other people to help them with daily activities like dressing or feeding themselves.

The two-week outpatient program is designed so individuals set personal goals that fit with their lifestyle and what they want to achieve. Goals such as feeding and dressing themselves, writing, holding a glass or using the computer typically top the list. The one-on-one therapy with a specially trained therapist includes a combination of movements, exercises and repetitive practice of real life tasks.

“It’s amazing how I am using my weaker arm now, and I hadn’t used it in years,” says William Meredith, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet who recently went through the program.

Meredith had his stroke 19 years ago and had not used his right hand since. He had to learn to do everything with his weaker or non-dominant hand. With a strong will to improve his quality of life and some movement in his affected hand, William made a good candidate for the CIT program.

“Each patient is different in what he can achieve or will work hard enough to achieve. In the case of Meredith, it is remarkable to see improvement within a few days of starting the therapy,” says neurologist Michael Lobatz, MD, rehab medical director. “We implemented the CIT therapy after research showed that even long-time stroke survivors could relearn lost skills if given the intense therapy.”