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

4 answers | Last updated: Oct 24, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

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

Expert Answers

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.

Community Answers

Handiann answered...

You mean while they're having a stroke? The only thing I could imagine was so they wouldn't choke on their tongue, similar to what you'd do if someone was having a seizure. You'd want to keep their airway open. If that's not what you're meaning, please write more detail about your question.

Deathana answered...

My grandfather had stroke last few months... and was in the hospital during the first 2 months. He developed a bedsore for lying on his back too much. Since then, they'd changed his position every 3 hours, i.e on the back, on the left side, and right side. They're trying to avoid the bedsore from getting worse. And even until now when it's healed, he's still paralyzed and we still put him on his sides to avoid bedsores like last time. Hope this can give you some ideas.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Patients are often placed on their affected side after a stroke to provide sensory input to that side, as well as for other neurological benefits. Speak to your occupational and physical therapists for more information. I am an OT and will often use this technique for my stroke patients.