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Acute vs Subacute Rehab


Rehabilitation medicine plays a crucial part in improving patients’ functional abilities after incidents like severe injury, disease, or surgery. Understanding the divergence between acute and subacute rehabilitation is key to grasping the comprehensive rehabilitation process. Read on to learn the differences in the level of care between the two. 

Acute Rehabilitation: 

Acute rehab steps in immediately following severe health events such as stroke, significant injury, or surgery. Inpatient rehabilitation aims to deliver comprehensive, high-intensity, inpatient therapy, helping patients regain their basic functionality and independence of daily life. (Heart.org, 2021). 

Typically, acute care mandates patients to participate in intense therapy schedules for approximately three hours per day, five to seven days per week. These therapy sessions usually comprise a combination of physical, occupational, and speech therapy, customized according to individual patient needs (MedicineNet, 2021). These patients also need close medical management by physiatrist and internist. Multidisciplinary teams of rehabilitation professionals collaborate to achieve the best possible patient recovery. 

Subacute Rehabilitation: 

In contrast to acute rehabilitation, Subacute Rehab provides less vigorous therapy, generally catering to patients transitioning from an acute rehab facility or for those who cannot tolerate acute rehab intensity. It serves patients needing an extended length of stay to regain strength and functional abilities before they are able to return home.   

Typically accommodated within skilled nursing facilities and long-term care hospitals, subacute rehab includes therapy services carried out for about one to two hours daily. The focus here is prolonged recovery and reinstatement of day-to-day activities, with patients receiving hands-on nursing care, personal care assistance, and dedicated rehabilitation therapies (American Journal of Managed Care, 2019). 


Ultimately, the choice between Acute and Subacute Rehabilitation often depends on the patient’s health status, recovery objectives, and their tolerance for intensive rehabilitation. The primary differentiation between the two arises from the intensity and duration of the therapy sessions provided by the rehabilitation facility.  

Disclaimer: This blog strives to provide a general understanding and should never replace professional healthcare advice. Always consult with healthcare experts for personalized medical counsel and therapy plans.

  • References

    Heart.org. 2021. Let’s Talk About: Stroke, Rehabilitation Therapy after a Stroke. [online] Available at: https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/effects-of-stroke 

    MedicineNet. 2021. Rehabilitation. [online] Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=21068 

    The American Journal of Managed Care. 2019. Acute Rehabilitation Vs. Subacute Rehabilitation. [online] Available at: https://www.ajmc.com/view/acute-rehabilitation-vs-subacute-rehabilitation 

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