American Heart Association


Proportional Recovery and Health-Related Quality of Life Outcomes

Melissa Bailey, MD

Lin C, Martin K, Arevalo Y, Harvey R, Prabhakaran S. Association of Proportional Recovery After Stroke with Health-Related Quality of Life. Stroke. 2021;52:2968–2971.

When anticipating the degree of recovery after stroke, motor deficit improvement has been well predicted by the proportional recovery rule. Post-stroke, many patients will regain 70% of the motor function that was lost, though this number often does not apply to those with severe initial deficits. However, return to prior motor functioning is only part of the recovery process, and measures of quality of life after stroke are also important in understanding a patient’s return to functionality after stroke. In a study by Lin et al., the authors sought to investigate whether achieving the 70% proportional recovery threshold was associated with improved health-related quality of life scores.

ISC 2021: Daily Step Count in Stroke Rehabilitation: A Useful Tool That Predicts Future Physical Activity

Csilla Manoczki, MD

International Stroke Conference 2021
March 17–19, 2021
Poster P198

Handlery R, Regan EW, Stewart JC, Pellegrini C, Monroe C, Hainline G, Handlery K, Fritz SL. Predictors of Daily Steps at 1-Year Poststroke: A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Stroke. 2021.

With wearable technologies becoming widely available, daily step count can be easily measured and utilized to track the patient’s physical activity in the home environment. Understanding which factors contribute to achieving a higher daily step count can help with tailoring interventions in the individual’s rehabilitation process.

A previous study showed that achieving a step count of at least 6000 steps a day decreases the risk of future cardiovascular events in patients after stroke; hence, the authors selected 6000 steps as target at 1 year post stroke with the potential of improved long-term health outcomes.

ESO-WSO 2020: Vagus Nerve Stimulation Paired With Rehabilitation for Upper Limb Motor Recovery After Stroke

Kate Hayward, PhD PT

European Stroke Organisation-World Stroke Organization 2020 Virtual Conference
November 7-9, 2020

ESO-WSO 2020 Large Clinical Trials & Awards
Presenter: Professor Jesse Dawson
Presentation title: Vagus nerve stimulation paired with rehabilitation for upper limb motor function after ischaemic stroke (VNS-Rehab): A randomised, blinded, pivotal, Phase III device trial

There is much work occurring to identify adjuvants that may boost post-stroke motor recovery — particularly upper limb recovery, which often remains an unmet need for many stroke survivors long-term. The current work focused on vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) as an adjunct to motor rehabilitation and built upon two prior pilot randomized controlled trials of this intervention.1,2 The pilot trials suggested potential for a functional benefit of VNS when combined with intensive motor rehabilitation. The mechanistic rationale put forward to underpin this intervention was that VNS activates release of neuromodulators, which may facilitate behavioral and physiological changes that support motor recovery.

In this randomised, blinded, Phase III trial,3 eligible participants had to have experienced a unilateral ischemic stroke 9 months to 10 years prior to enrolment and demonstrated a Fugl Meyer Assessment Upper Extremity (FMA-UE) score of 20 to 50 points (out of 66 points). This is consistent with moderate to moderately-severe impairment as all participants would be expected to demonstrate some movement if scoring within this range. All enrolled participants had a VNS device implanted and were randomized to receive an active or sham stimulation protocol. Of note, all participants received 5 active stimulations (varying intensities) at the commencement of each in-clinic session, which was designed to expose everyone to a very small volume of VNS and to maintain blinding. All participants received 6 weeks of in-clinic rehabilitation (3 session per week for 2 hours aiming for >300 repetitions) followed by 90 days of at home-rehabilitation (daily therapist prescribed home exercises). Follow up occurred at 1, 30, and 90 days post completion of in-clinic rehabilitation.

Higher Intensity, Higher Dose Aerobic Exercise Training After Stroke

Kate Hayward, PhD, PT

Klassen TD, Dukelow SP, Bayley MT, Benavente O, Hill MD, Krassioukov A, Liu-Ambrose T, Pooyania S, Poulin MJ, Schneeberg A, et al. Higher Doses Improve Walking Recovery During Stroke Inpatient Rehabilitation. Stroke. 2020;51:2639-2648.

Stroke recovery and rehabilitation trials have received much criticism for underdosing the tested intervention,1 which remains an important consideration when interpreting past trials in the field.2

In this trial of aerobic exercise during inpatient rehabilitation by Klassen et al.,3 the intensity (heart rate reserve during training and walking steps) and amount (minutes of training) of aerobic exercise were increased from usual care. The control group (usual care) typically received 1 hour, 5 days/week, while the Determining Optimal Post-Stroke Exercise 1 (DOSE1) group received 1 hour, 5 days/week (with a target of double the intensity of the control group), and the DOSE2 group received 2 hours, 5 days/week (with a target of quadruple the intensity of the control group), each for a 4-week duration (20 sessions).

Article Commentary: “Movement Behavior Patterns in People With First-Ever Stroke”

Tamaya Van Criekinge, PT

Wondergem R, Veenhof C, Wouters EMJ, de Bie RA, Visser-Meily JMA, Pisters MF. Movement Behavior Patterns in People With First-Ever Stroke. Stroke. 2019;50:3553–3560.

Are you reaching the recommended daily step goal of 10,000 steps for achieving a desirable level of physical activity? During routine daily activities, this is already considered a difficult task, and it becomes harder when having to deal with activity impairments. People living with stroke spend only half of the recommended time being active as compared to healthy individuals and are subsequently at high risk of developing sedentary behavior. Since prolonged sedentary behavior can damage your physical and mental health, it is important to gain insight into these unhealthy movement behavior patterns of people living with stroke. As the authors suggest, this provides health care providers with important information regarding the identification of the right persons with specific behaviors for targeted interventions.

Article Commentary: “Contributions of Stepping Intensity and Variability to Mobility in Individuals Poststroke: A Randomized Clinical Trial”

Tamaya Van Criekinge, PT

Hornby TG, Henderson CE, Plawecki A, Lucas E, Lotter J, Holthus M, et al. Contributions of Stepping Intensity and Variability to Mobility in Individuals Poststroke: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Stroke. 2019;50:2492–2499.

Recovery of gait after stroke is considered one of the most important therapy goals for both patients and therapists, to assure independency and the ability to ambulate in the community. However, over 20% of stroke survivors do not reach independent walking, which necessitates the implementation of more intensive gait rehabilitation strategies. As Hornby et al. correctly state, rehabilitation staff are often too reserved, as they are scared of potential adverse effects, such as cardiovascular events and abnormal kinematic movements strategies.

In this study, Hornby and colleagues questioned if the benefits after high-intensity training in motor recovery outweigh the possible adverse events. In total, 97 chronic stroke patients were randomized in three groups: 1) High-intensity in high variable contexts (speed-dependent and skill-dependent multiple direction treadmill training, overground training and stair climbing at 70-80% of the heart rate reserve); 2) High-intensity with minimal variability (forward stepping treadmill and overground training at 70-80% of heart rate reserve); and 3) Low-intensity in high variable contexts (similar variable contexts as group one, yet performing exercises at 30-40% of heart rate reserve). Primary walking outcomes assessed were self-selected and fasted speed, single-limb stance and step-length asymmetry at self-selected and fasted speed, and six-minute walking test at fasted speed.

Recovery Post-Stroke: Proportional or Not?

Kathryn S. Hayward, PhD, PT

Hawe RL, Scott SH, Dukelow SP. Taking Proportional Out of Stroke Recovery. Stroke. 2019;50:204–211.

In this entry, I discuss a recent publication by Rachel Hawe and colleagues (1) regarding the potential biases of the mathematical properties of the proportional recovery rule and how this may impact application in the field of stroke recovery. Proportional recovery is the idea that most individuals post-stroke (“fitters” to the rule) will recover 70% of their potential on a given outcome (see paper for rule equation). The authors cite multiple studies that have demonstrated proportional recovery for upper limb motor impairment using a single outcome (Fugl Meyer Upper Limb assessment, out of 66 points), and recent work extending this rule to lower limb, aphasia and hemispatial neglect recovery outcomes.

The principal mathematical concept discussed as a limitation of the proportional recovery rule is mathematical coupling. This concept refers to when one variable directly or indirectly contains all or a part of another. For example, in the case of proportional recovery of the upper limb post-stroke, the initial score on Fugl Meyer Upper Limb assessment is part of both the independent and dependent variables of the proportional recovery rule.

Is Circuit Training Useful After Stroke?

Stephen Makin, PhD

English C, Hillier S, Lynch E. Circuit Class Therapy for Improving Mobility After Stroke. Stroke. 2017

There are few things in life I find more boring than going to the gym. Running on a treadmill or lifting weights for what seems like hours just doesn’t interest me.

Circuit class can be fun though. You get to try lots of different exercises and move onto the next one before they get boring.

But could they also work in the stroke unit gym? After all, that’s nothing like a usual gym.

This is something people have been asking for a while. The first study of circuit training in stroke rehabilitation was carried out in 2000. English and colleagues have updated the Cochrane review on circuit training after stroke.

Breakthroughs in Neurorehabilitation: Using Brain Computer Interfaces for Stroke Recovery

Gurmeen Kaur, MBBS

Bundy DT, Souders L, Baranyai K, Leonard L, Schalk G, Coker R, et al. Contralesional Brain–Computer Interface Control of a Powered Exoskeleton for Motor Recovery in Chronic Stroke Survivors. Stroke. 2017

Brain computer interfaces (BCIs) are defined as systems which take biological signal from a person and predict some abstract aspect of the person’s cognitive state. The goal of the BCI technology is to give severely paralyzed people a way to communicate.

While BCIs can use several input-signals, including EEG, EMG, and fMRIs, the BCI technology developed for chronic stroke rehabilitation has been focused on demonstrating motor improvement with the use of EEG input. Recent studies have shown that BCI-controlled orthoses or functional electric stimulators can lead to improvements in motor function in chronic stroke survivors.

In this study, the authors recruited 10 subjects with chronic hemiparesis involving the upper extremity for a home-based BCI powered exoskeleton. Previous experimenters had used EEG signals derived from “perilesional” cortex, contralateral to the arm involvement—which means the area next to that affected by the stroke. The problem with use of perilesional cortex was that if the infarct size is large, with extensive cortical damage, the perilesional cortex was not able to produce sufficient EEG signal to power the exoskeleton. To overcome this, the authors used “contralesional” cortex, ipsilateral to the affected arm. This is the first study to look at the use of the unaffected hemicortex in chronic stroke recovery and aimed to see if plasticity could be triggered.

Discovering the Role of Ipsilesional Parietofrontal Motor Circuits in Stroke and Motor Recovery Through Functional Brain Imaging

Danny R. Rose, Jr., MD

The advent of functional brain imaging has greatly advanced the understanding of how interregional interactions and connectivity in the brain are disrupted by ischemic stroke and are modified in patients as they recover motor function after stroke. Most studies have focused on frontal motor circuits, including the primary motor cortices (M1), dorsal (PMd) and ventral premotor cortices (PMv), and the supplementary motor area (SMA). Studies in healthy subjects suggest that the posterior parietal cortices also play an important role in motor tasks, particularly dexterous hand function which is crucial for functional activities. Data from both resting-state connectivity studies and longitudinal whole-brain analyses suggest a reduced information flow from the ipsilesional parietal brain regions to ipsilesional M1 and secondary motor areas after stroke that are followed by time-dependent changes in neuronal connectivity during recovery. By using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and dynamic causal modeling (DCM), Schulz et al. investigated interactions between parietal cortices and frontal motor areas of the ipsilesional hemisphere in stroke patients as compared to healthy controls, as well as whether the degree of neuronal coupling correlates with residual functional deficit.

Fifteen patients (7 male, one left-handed, aged 68±8.5 years) were included roughly three months after first-ever ischemic stroke. Residual motor function was determined by a combination of grip force, the Nine-hole-peg test (NHP), and the Fugl-Meyer score for the upper extremity (UEFM). These assessments were compared to those of seventeen healthy controls of comparable age and sex (10 male, one left-handed, aged aged 64±9.9 years). Participants underwent event-related functional brain imaging while performing 30 isometric visually-guided whole hand grips with the paretic hand using a grip force response device. Controls were pseudo-randomly assigned to move either their right or left hand. All participants underwent functional imaging using a gradient echo-planar imaging sequence with a 3T MRI scanner. Image analysis was performed to identify areas of task-related brain activation for each patient, and these areas were quantified using blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) parameter estimates for five ipsilesional areas (M1, PMv, SMA, anterior (aIPS) and caudal part of the intraparietal sulcus (cIPS).

Dynamic causal modeling was utilized to analyze interregional connectivity using a priori assumptions. The coupling parameters were divided into three matrices. The A matrix represented the “resting state” of task-independent interregional coupling. The B matrix represented the changes in coupling parameters elicited by the task input, and the C matrix specified regions receiving exogenous inputs. Group-wise Bayesian model averaging was applied to derive mean coupling estimates for each connection weighted by the model probabilities. Two-tailed Wilcoxon rank sum exact tests were used to determine the significance of differences between stroke patients and controls. Spearman’s correlation coefficient was used to evaluate the relationship between coupling estimates and clinical scores.

In stroke patients, the task studied induced a significant increase in BOLD signal in the ipsilesional M1, PMv, SMA, aIPS, and cIPS both in the ipsilesional and contralesional hemispheres. Accounting for spatial variability in focal brain activation, it was found that both cases and controls had similar subject-specific peak coordinates and Euclidean distances between individual and group-level coordinates. The stroke patients and controls showed comparable grip-related effective connectivity values, with the most prominent increase in information flow being found from SMA to M1 and PMv to M1. Stroke patients also exhibited enhanced facilitatory connectivity from aIPS or M1 and M1 to aIPS (p<0.05). Interestingly, there were no significant correlations between clinical performance and coupling estimates.

This study extends previous findings suggesting that parietal brain region interactions with frontal motor areas may facilitate plastic changes after stroke. It is likely that posterior parietal brain regions act as important nodes for sensorimotor integration, particularly when visual rather proprioceptive feedback was given, as was the case in this study. The lack of association between coupling and residual motor function was unexpected. The authors posit that this may suggest that direct activity of the posterior parietal cortex may be more integrative, relying more on other parameters and less directly reflective of functional motor activity. The issue was also raised that current measures of dexterous hand function may not be adequate to assess minute, nuanced improvements, which has been an issue when relating clinical scoring to functional imaging in multiple areas of research. This study also has many of the other limitations when clinically correlating functional brain imaging data (i.e.. motor tasks not specifically designed to activate the area in question, possibility of “hidden” accessory pathways that were not directly studied, inability to control for differences in cognitive processing when performing task). Regardless, the study provides a valuable insight into the role of the ipsilesional parietofrontal motor network and its importance with respect to motor functioning and recovery after stroke.