Neurology Department, Meerbusch

Prof. Dr. med. Stefan Knecht: Individualised therapy for neurological rehabilitation

The St. Mauritius Therapy Clinic at the Düsseldorf Catholic Hospital Group (VKKD) is the most modern neurological rehabilitation clinic in western Germany. Patients benefit from an experienced neurological rehabilitation team and a dedicated, state-of-the art diagnostics department with an MRI scanner and a robot-assisted treatment unit.

Over 240 members of staff, of which more than 20 are doctors and more than 90 are practising therapists – among them psychologists, sports therapists and physiotherapists – provide care to just under 200 patients. From the ratio of patients to staff, you can easily see how much individual care our specialists are able to give to people who are at a point in their life when they require medical and rehabilitative assistance and emotional support.

A well-thought-out and continuously updated concept for each and every patient is just as critical to our success as specialist knowledge and expertise or the right equipment. These personalised therapy concepts are drawn up in accordance with the individual rehabilitation status of the patient and how much of their movement, language and psychological functions remain. They are discussed in consultation with the patient and their family and are implemented in a structured process. This highly developed, modular system and the positive outcomes resulting from modern rehabilitation medicine explain the high demand for therapy places in our clinic both from Germany and abroad.

Neurologists treat people suffering from diseases of the brain, the spine and the peripheral nerves. This includes strokes, brain haemorrhages, head injuries, degenerative nerve disorders, Parkinson’s and inflammations of the brain or nerves.

Most of our patients are referred to us from other hospitals following an acute treatment. We either continue the treatment, adapt it according to how the disease is progressing or complement it. At the same time – and even if we have not yet carried out any intensive medical procedures – we begin to train the patients, preventing complications by keeping them active and attempting to restore their brain and nerve function as early and as effectively as possible.

The restoration of functions is a step-by-step process. In our early rehabilitation units, intensive medical care and nursing focuses on improving patients’ awareness, building their communicative and cooperative skills, teaching them how to breathe and swallow again, and getting them to sit upright and take those first steps towards mobility. In the units for follow-on rehabilitation, we work on achieving greater independence in day-to-day activities by improving functions involved in sensory motor control and coordination and by restoring language, drive, emotion, motivation, orientation, awareness and memory. The aim is to restore as much independence and quality of life as possible.

We also believe it is important to identify and remedy what it was that caused our patients to get ill in the first place so as to minimise the risk of an acute illness recurring. Our practising therapists run training courses and give tips on how to live an active, healthy life. The brain performs a diverse array of functions, controlling movement as well as language, awareness and memory. For this reason, we work with an experienced team representing a range of disciplines. As well as neurologists, this includes physiotherapists, occupational therapists, language and swallowing therapists, psychologists, specialist nurses, music therapists and sports scientists.

Support is also provided by social workers and chaplains. If necessary, we can continue the treatment at the patient’s home or on an outpatient basis close to where they are staying. In our therapy programmes, we use the leading established treatments as well as new and promising alternatives. Our research projects help to improve the level of care provided to patients both in our department and in other hospitals.