Comparison of changes in upper and lower extremity impairments and disabilities after stroke

Int J Rehabil Res. 2003 Jun;26(2):109-16. doi: 10.1097/00004356-200306000-00005.


The aims of this study were to determine if the changes in impairment and disability measures for the upper and lower extremities were equivalent during the post-stroke rehabilitation period and whether the rates of change were maintained 6 months after discharge from rehabilitation. A prospective cohort study design was used. One-hundred-and-thirty-two people who had sustained a stroke and who were enrolled in an intensive functional rehabilitation programme were recruited. Upper and lower extremity impairments and disabilities were evaluated at admission, at discharge from rehabilitation and 6 months later. During active rehabilitation, the changes in both extremities were smaller for the impairment measures (standardized response mean (SRM), 0.37-0.63) than the disability measures (SRM, 0.76-1.05). While the changes in upper and lower extremities were equivalent for impairment measures, they were larger in the lower extremity for disability measures, indicating that the rate of functional improvement was faster in the lower extremity during active rehabilitation. After discharge, however, while the rate of motor recovery in the lower extremity dropped (SRM, 0.54-0.18), it was maintained in the upper extremity (SRM, 0.45 and 0.42). Present findings indicate that functional (disability) measures improve faster than impairment measures in both extremities during the active rehabilitation period and suggest that motor recovery occurs at a different rate in the upper and lower extremities, with that of the upper extremity occurring later and extending into the period after discharge from active rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Patient Discharge
  • Postural Balance / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Recovery of Function / physiology
  • Stroke / physiopathology*
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Time Factors
  • Upper Extremity / physiopathology*
  • Walking / physiology