According to a recently released UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology (UCL)-led sudy, chronic stroke patients can continue to benefit from intensive rehabilitation over a much longer period than previously thought. These findings could have “huge implications” for future treatments, say the researchers.
It’s common to have problems with using your arm or hand after a stroke and it will impact the patient’s lives reducing their 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 program 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.
The researchers noted that this is a much higher dose of rehabilitation than previously tested, however they found that patients, despite having a range of impairments and fatigue levels, were able to complete the full program, and saw significant clinical improvements in their arm and hand function
“During the intensive rehabilitation program 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,” said lead author Professor Nick Ward (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) in a statement released on March 20, 2019.
“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,” said Ward.
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,” Ward added.
Ward called for more studies to determine which kinds of rehabilitation therapies are most effective. He hopes this study will lead to more therapy being provided to stroke survivors.
The study was funded by UCLH Charities and The National Brain Appeal.