Early and Repetitive Stimulation of the Arm Can Substantially Improve the Long-Term Outcome After Stroke: A 5-Year Follow-up Study of a Randomized Trial
Background and Purpose— Several studies have investigated the effect of therapeutic interventions for the arm in the acute phase after stroke, with follow-ups at a maximum of 12 months. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of repetitive sensorimotor training of the arm at 5 years after stroke.
Subjects and Methods— One hundred consecutive stroke patients were randomly allocated either to an experimental group that received daily additional sensorimotor stimulation of the arm or to a control group. The intervention period was 6 weeks. Assessments of the patients were made before, midway, and after intervention, and at 6 and 12 months after stroke. In this study, 62 patients were reassessed at 5 years after stroke. The Brunnström-Fugl-Meyer (BFM) test, Action Research Arm (ARA) test, and Barthel index (BI) were used as the primary outcome measures.
Results— At the 5-year follow-up, there was a statistically significant difference for both the BFM and ARA tests in favor of the experimental group. The mean differences in improvement between the groups from the initial evaluation to the 5-year assessment corresponded to 17 points on the BFM and 17.4 on the ARA. No effect was found for the BI. The treatment was most effective in patients with a severe initial motor deficit.
Conclusions— Adding a specific intervention for the arm during the acute phase after a stroke resulted in a clinically meaningful and long-lasting effect on motor function. The effect can be attributed to early, repetitive, and targeted stimulation.
- Received August 11, 2003.
- Revision received December 9, 2003.
- Accepted January 5, 2004.