Outcome of Subacute Stroke Rehabilitation: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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Background and Purpose

Organized acute stroke treatment reduces mortality, functional deficits, and the need of institutionalization after stroke. It is largely unknown whether the effects of treatment are due to early or subacute efforts. The aim of this randomized, controlled study was to test the hypothesis that rehabilitation of stroke patients in the subacute phase in a hospital rehabilitation unit is beneficial in reducing death and dependency and increasing health-related quality of life.


251 patients initially treated in the hospital were randomized to subacute rehabilitation in a hospital rehabilitation unit (n=127) or to the health services in the municipality (n=124) and were followed up for 7 months.


The combined outcome of patients being dead or dependent (Barthel Index score of <75) was 23% in the hospital group and 38% in the municipality group (P=.01). Seven-month survival rates were 90.6% and 83.9% (P=.11), respectively. Dependency in activities of daily living was 12.6% in the hospital group and 25.0% in the municipality group (P=.07). Patients with a BI score of <50 before rehabilitation had significantly better outcome in the hospital rehabilitation unit, with fewer patients becoming dependent (P=.005) and patients having higher Scandinavian Stroke Scale (P=.026) and BI scores (P=.005). No significant differences in health-related quality of life were found. Many patients treated in the municipalities (30%) did not receive any organized rehabilitation in this study.


Subacute rehabilitation of stroke patients in a hospital-based rehabilitation unit improves outcome. Patients with moderate or severe stroke appear to benefit most. (Stroke. 1998;29:779-784.)

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