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This study examined the validity of the clinical tenet that poststroke recovery of the upper extremity is less rapid and complete than poststroke recovery of the lower extremity. Previous studies comparing upper and lower extremity recovery have evaluated disability rather than motor impairment. Individuals with lower extremity impairments may be more functional and appear less disabled than individuals with upper extremity impairments. Function of the upper extremity requires finer motor control, for which the patient can less readily compensate. Therefore, impairments and disability would predictably be more highly correlated in this area. We tested the hypothesis that upper and lower extremity motor recovery are similar.The 95 patients selected for this study were enrolled in the Durham County Stroke Study and had been diagnosed with anterior circulation ischemic stroke. Each subject received Fugl-Meyer assessments within 24 hours of admission and then 5, 30, 90, and 180 days after stroke. We used these assessments to compare the time course and patterns of motor function of the upper and lower extremities.Repeated-measures ANOVA revealed that percent maximal motor recovery was significantly (P<.001) affected by time after stroke but not by extremity (upper extremity versus lower extremity) (P=32). When stroke severity level is controlled, the upper and lower extremities continue to show no difference in percent motor recovery (P=.19).In patients with anterior circulation ischemic stroke, the severity of motor impairment and the patterns of motor recovery are similar for the upper and lower extremities. The most rapid recovery for both extremities occurs within 30 days.