New CBR research offers insight into recovery chances after stroke

Posted by Laura Fogg

Stroke patients may soon know the relief of having a definitive prediction of their chances of recovery, according to research conducted at the Centre for Brain Research.

Cathy Stinear, from the University’s Centre for Brain Research, has been investigating techniques for predicting stroke recovery. Her findings were recently published in the world’s leading neurology journal, The Lancet Neurology. Stroke is a leading cause of disability in developed countries and the ability to live independently after stroke depends largely on how well a patient can recover movement.

Dr Stinear says being able to more accurately predict a patient’s prognosis for recovery would benefit both patients and clinicians through enabling realistic goal-setting and efficient resource allocation. Current techniques for predicting recovering include motor impairment scores and neuroimaging (brain scans), while future techniques could include neurophysiological assessments – or tests to detect the extent of damage to key pathways in the brain.

“The first few days after stroke can be a very anxious time for patients. Apart from the shock, they often worry about whether they’ll be able to look after themselves and any dependents in the future. Being able to confidently and accurately predict the recovery of motor skills for these people would be a great relief,” says Dr Stinear.

Dr Stinear’s paper illustrates how investigations done within a week of stroke have very good prognostic value and new techniques including genetic testing for neural plasticity (the brain’s ability to repair itself) were showing promise. “There are many new and exciting prospects for predicting recovery after stroke. Findings so far suggest that the first tests should be those that are quick and simple, such as bedside tests of motor impairment, with progression to more complex tests if uncertainty remains. Later tests could include neurophysiological and neuroimaging assessments of motor system integrity and genetic testing,” says Dr Stinear.

Further work around stroke recovery and brain plasticity in particular is being carried out by Dr Stinear and colleagues through the Centre for Brain Research’s new Brain Recovery Clinic based at the Tamaki Campus.