Does an intensive interdisciplinary upper limb therapy programme following acute stroke improve outcome?

H. Rodgers, J. Mackintosh, C. Price, R. Wood, Paul McNamee, T. Fearon, A. Marritt, R. Curless

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Objective: To determine whether an early increased-intensity upper limb therapy programme following acute stroke improves outcome.

Design: A randomized controlled trial.

Setting: A stroke unit which provides acute care and rehabilitation for all stroke admissions.

Subjects: One hundred and twenty-three patients who had had a stroke causing upper limb impairment within the previous 10 days.

Intervention: The intervention group received stroke unit care plus enhanced upper limb rehabilitation provided jointly by a physiotherapist and occupational therapist, commencing within 10 days of stroke, and available up to 30 minutes/day, Five days/week for six weeks. The control group received stroke unit care.

Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was the Action Research Arm Test (ARAT) three months after stroke. Secondary outcome measures: Motricity Index; Frenchay Arm Test; upper limb pain; Barthel ADL Index; Nottingham E-ADL Scale; and costs to health and social services at three and six months after stroke.

Results: There were no differences in outcomes between the intervention and control groups three and six months after stroke. During the intervention period the intervention group received a median of 29 minutes of enhanced upper limb therapy per working day as inpatients. The total amount of inpatient physiotherapy and occupational therapy received by the intervention group was a median of 52 minutes per working day during the intervention period and 38 minutes per working day for the control group (p=0.001). There were no differences in service costs.

Conclusions: An early increased-intensity interdisciplinary upper limb therapy programme jointly provided by a physiotherapist and occupational therapist did not improve outcome after stroke. The actual difference in the amount of therapy received by intervention and control groups was less than planned due to a competitive therapy bias.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-589
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Rehabilitation
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003



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