Background: Community physiotherapy is often prescribed for stroke patients with long-term mobility problems. We aimed to assess the effectiveness of this treatment in patients who had mobility problems 1 year after stroke.
Methods: We screened 359 patients older than 50 years for a single-masked, randomised controlled trial to assess the effects of community physiotherapy. Assessments were made at baseline, 3, 6, and 9 months in 170 eligible patients assigned treatment or no intervention. The primary outcome measure was mobility measured by the Rivermead mobility index. Secondary outcome measures were gait speed, number of falls, daily activity (Barthel index scores), social activity (Frenchay activities index), hospital anxiety and depression scale, and emotional stress of carers (general health questionnaire 28). Analyses were by intention to treat.
Findings: Follow-up was available for 146 patients (86%). Changes in scores on the Rivermead mobility index (score range 0-15) differed significantly between treatment and control groups at 3 months (p=0.018), but only by a median of 1 point (95% CI 0-1), with an interpolated value of 0.55 (0.08-1.04). Gait speed was 2.6 m/min (0.30-4.95) higher in the treatment group at 3 months. Neither treatment effect persisted at 6-months' and 9-months' follow-up. Treatment had no effect on patients' daily activity, social activity, anxiety, depression, and number of falls, or on emotional stress of carers.
Interpretation: Community physiotherapy treatment for patients with mobility problems 1 year after stroke leads to significant, but clinically small, improvements in mobility and gait speed that are not sustained after treatment ends.