Objective: The aim was to study the role of visual neglect in acute right hemisphere brain infarct as a predictor of poor functional outcome during the first year after stroke. In particular, we were interested in the additional value of neglect measures besides hemiparesis, hemianopia, cognitive deficits and age.
Patients and methods: A consecutive series of 57 patients with a neuroradiologically verified right hemisphere infarct was examined within 10 days of the stroke. Fifty patients were followed up for 1 year. Neglect was measured with the Conventional and the Behavioural subtests of the Behavioural Inattention Test (BITC and BITB, respectively). The predictors were determined at the 10-day examination. Functional outcome was assessed 3, 6 and 12 months after the onset with the Frenchay Activities Index.
Results: Neglect in BITB was the best single predictor, which together with high age formed the best combination of predictors for poor functional outcome at each follow-up. Hemiparesis was also included in this prediction model at the 3-month follow-up, but hemianopia, BITC, or visuoconstructional and memory deficits showed no additional predictive value. However, neglect usually recovered soon. When neurological and cognitive deficits were assessed at the same time as the outcome, hemiparesis rather than neglect was the strongest correlate of poor outcome.
Conclusion: Neglect in acute stroke is an important predictor of poor functional recovery. Residual neglect, which could be compensated in the follow-up tests, may nevertheless restrict patients' real-life activities and hobbies.