Why are stroke victims placed on their side during a stroke?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Why are stroke victims placed on their side during a stroke?

Expert Answer

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

I have not heard of putting someone on their side specifically for the purposes of having a stroke. This practice is usually reserved for someone having a seizure. It is called putting someone in the "Rescue Position". While a patient is having a seizure, the safest place for them to be is on their side. This is because when they are lying flat on their back, there is a risk of aspirating oral material into the lungs - such as blood if the tongue is bitten. If on their stomachs, the patient may have difficulty breathing and keeping their mouth clear.

It does not seem entirely unreasonable to do the same during the acute phase of a stroke, but it is not something that I have been doing, nor have I heard of it in general use.

I hope that helps.