Serial Assessment of Acute Stroke Using the NIH Stroke Scale

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Background and Purpose

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Stroke Scale has been used in clinical trials to assess neurological outcome after investigational therapy for acute stroke. We used the NIH Stroke Scale to study the degree and time course of recovery in patients with acute stroke who were treated with conventional therapy.


We serially assessed 50 patients with ischemic stroke who presented within 24 hours of onset of symptoms. Patients were grouped by stroke subtype. Major neurological improvement was defined as a decrease in the stroke score by 4 points or more.


The mean NIH stroke score for all patients improved significantly by 7 to 10 days and at last follow-up (average, 44 days). Major neurological improvement was seen in 5 of 41 patients (12%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2% to 22%) by 24 hours, 11 of 40 patients (28%; 95% CI, 14% to 41%) by 48 hours, and 19 of 37 patients (51%; 95% CI, 35% to 67%) by follow-up. The subgroup of patients with middle cerebral artery territory embolism showed a similar pattern of improvement; in contrast, patients with lacunar infarcts did not show significant change in scores during the study period. The score on admission did not correlate with the degree of subsequent improvement or deterioration.


A significant percentage of patients with acute ischemic stroke treated with conventional therapy show early improvement as assessed by the NIH Stroke Scale. The degree and time course of recovery may be influenced by stroke type. (Stroke. 1994;25:362-365.)

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