New study suggests effective rehabilitation possible for chronic stroke patients 

22/03/2019 00:00 
Chronic stroke patients continue to benefit from intensive rehabilitation over a much longer period than previously thought, a UCL-led study has found. The finding could have “huge implications” for future treatments.

Problems with the arm and hand after stroke are common and impact hugely on patients’ lives, reducing their independence. It is generally believed that the upper limb is difficult to rehabilitate and after a few months, not much recovery is expected.

The study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, assessed 224 patients (median time post-stroke 18 months), who took part in an intensive three week programme with 90 hours of therapy, at the Queen Square Upper Limb Neurorehabilitation clinic, based at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, part of UCLH.

This is a much higher dose of rehabilitation than previously tested, however researchers found that patients, despite having a range of impairments and fatigue levels, were able to complete the full programme, and saw significant clinical improvements in arm and hand function

Lead author Professor Nick Ward (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology), said: “During the intensive rehabilitation programme patients gained significant improvements in arm and hand function, in some cases many years after the stroke, and this continued even after the participants had completed their treatment.

“These findings are potentially a game changer for millions of stroke survivors and challenge the general medical consensus about the timeline for rehabilitation and should inform the design of future clinical trials.”

There are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK each year and an estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million stroke patients.

“This finding could have huge implications for future clinical trials and treatment for stroke patients,” he added.

“More studies are needed to determine which kinds of therapy are most effective, but I hope our research will ultimately lead to much more therapy being available for stroke survivors.”

The work was supported by UCLH Charities and The National Brain Appeal.

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