Stroke rehabilitation patients, practice, and outcomes: is earlier and more aggressive therapy better?

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2005 Dec;86(12 Suppl 2):S101-S114. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2005.09.016.


Horn SD, DeJong G, Smout RJ, Gassaway J, James R, Conroy B. Stroke rehabilitation patients, practice, and outcomes: is earlier and more aggressive therapy better?

Objective: To examine associations of patient characteristics, rehabilitation therapies, neurotropic medications, nutritional support, and timing of initiation of rehabilitation with functional outcomes and discharge destination for inpatient stroke rehabilitation patients.

Design: Prospective observational cohort study.

Setting: Five U.S. inpatient rehabilitation facilities.

Participants: Post-stroke rehabilitation patients (N=830; age, >18 y) with moderate or severe strokes, from the Post-Stroke Rehabilitation Outcomes Project database.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: Discharge total, motor, and cognitive FIM scores and discharge destination.

Results: Controlling for patient differences, various activities and interventions were associated with better outcomes including earlier initiation of rehabilitation, more time spent per day in higher-level rehabilitation activities such as gait, upper-extremity control, and problem solving, use of newer psychiatric medications, and enteral feeding. Several findings part with conventional practice, such as starting gait training in the first 3 hours of physical therapy, even for low-level patients, was associated with better outcomes.

Conclusions: Specific therapy activities and interventions are associated with better outcomes. Earlier rehabilitation admission, higher-level activities early in the rehabilitation process, tube feeding, and newer medications are associated with better stroke rehabilitation outcomes.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Central Nervous System Agents / administration & dosage
  • Cohort Studies
  • Enteral Nutrition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rehabilitation Centers / organization & administration*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Central Nervous System Agents