Background: Recent nursing initiatives encourage early mobilization of neurocritical care patients, but whether this intervention can be safely generalized to acute stroke is debatable. We performed a systematic review of findings from recent studies to provide direction for patient management and future research.
Methods: An exhaustive literature search was performed in Medline, SCOPUS and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials to identify published clinical trial research using a very early mobility intervention (within 24 hours) in acute ischemic stroke patients. The primary efficacy outcome supporting the search was neurologic disability reduction or improved functional outcomes, and the primary safety outcome was neurologic deterioration. Studies were critically reviewed for inclusion by 3 separate investigators, findings were synthesized, and an overall recommendation for very early mobilization use in acute stroke was assigned according to GRADE criteria.
Results: We initially identified 12 papers focused on early mobilization in acute stroke; of these, 6 observational studies were excluded, 1 study was excluded due to an ambiguous population, and 3 studies were excluded due to first initial mobilization out of bed occurring greater than 24 hours after admission. Two prospective randomized outcome blinded evaluation (PROBE) studies were retained, consisting of a total 2160 patients; ischemic stroke subtype was not disclosed in either study, limiting an understanding of the impact of very early mobilization on small versus large artery occlusion. Slower mobilization occurring beyond the first 24 hours was associated with higher rates of favorable outcome (mRS 0-2) at 90 days, whereas very early mobilization within the first 24 hours was associated with a number needed to harm of 25.
Conclusions: In acute stroke, evidence supports a rested approach to care within the first 24 hours of hospitalization (GRADE: Strong recommendation, high quality of evidence). Similar to acute myocardial infarction, vascular insufficiency experienced in stroke likely warrants a more guarded approach to mobility. Additional studies exploring timing beyond 24 hours and dose of mobility interventions are warranted in discreet populations.