Prevalence and Time Course of Post-Stroke Pain: A Multicenter Prospective Hospital-Based Study

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Objective. Pain prevalence data for patients at various stages after stroke.

Design. Repeated cross-sectional, observational epidemiological study.

Setting. Hospital-based multicenter study.

Subjects. Four hundred forty-three prospectively enrolled stroke survivors.

Methods. All patients underwent bedside clinical examination. The different types of post-stroke pain (central post-stroke pain, musculoskeletal pains, shoulder pain, spasticity-related pain, and headache) were diagnosed with widely accepted criteria during the acute, subacute, and chronic stroke stages. Differences among the three stages were analyzed with χ2-tests.

Results. The mean overall prevalence of pain was 29.56% (14.06% in the acute, 42.73% in the subacute, and 31.90% in the chronic post-stroke stage). Time course differed significantly according to the various pain types (P < 0.001). The prevalence of musculoskeletal and shoulder pain was higher in the subacute and chronic than in the acute stages after stroke; the prevalence of spasticity-related pain peaked in the chronic stage. Conversely, headache manifested in the acute post-stroke stage. The prevalence of central post-stroke pain was higher in the subacute and chronic than in the acute post-stroke stage. Fewer than 25% of the patients with central post-stroke pain received drug treatment.

Conclusions. Pain after stroke is more frequent in the subacute and chronic phase than in the acute phase, but it is still largely undertreated.

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