Recovery and Prediction of Bimanual Hand Use After Stroke

Objective

To determine similarities and differences in key predictors of recovery of bimanual hand use and unimanual motor impairment after stroke.

Method

In this prospective longitudinal study, 89 patients with first-ever stroke with arm paresis were assessed at 3 weeks and 3 and 6 months after stroke onset. Bimanual activity performance was assessed with the Adult Assisting Hand Assessment Stroke (Ad-AHA), and unimanual motor impairment was assessed with the Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA). Candidate predictors included shoulder abduction and finger extension measured by the corresponding FMA items (FMA-SAFE; range 0–4) and sensory and cognitive impairment. MRI was used to measure weighted corticospinal tract lesion load (wCST-LL) and resting-state interhemispheric functional connectivity (FC).

Results

Initial Ad-AHA performance was poor but improved over time in all (mild-severe) impairment subgroups. Ad-AHA correlated with FMA at each time point (r > 0.88, p < 0.001), and recovery trajectories were similar. In patients with moderate to severe initial FMA, FMA-SAFE score was the strongest predictor of Ad-AHA outcome (R2 = 0.81) and degree of recovery (R2 = 0.64). Two-point discrimination explained additional variance in Ad-AHA outcome (R2 = 0.05). Repeated analyses without FMA-SAFE score identified wCST-LL and cognitive impairment as additional predictors. A wCST-LL >5.5 cm3 strongly predicted low to minimal FMA/Ad-AHA recovery (≤10 and 20 points respectively, specificity = 0.91). FC explained some additional variance to FMA-SAFE score only in unimanual recovery.

Conclusion

Although recovery of bimanual activity depends on the extent of corticospinal tract injury and initial sensory and cognitive impairments, FMA-SAFE score captures most of the variance explained by these mechanisms. FMA-SAFE score, a straightforward clinical measure, strongly predicts bimanual recovery.

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier

NCT02878304.

Classification of Evidence

This study provides Class I evidence that the FMA-SAFE score predicts bimanual recovery after stroke.

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