Objective: To examine the influence of balance disability on function and the recovery of function after stroke and consequently to assess the predictive validity of the Brunel Balance Assessment (BBA).
Methods: Cross-sectional study of 102 patients admitted consecutively to 6 National Health Service hospitals with weakness 2 to 4 weeks after their first anterior circulation stroke; 75 of whom completed follow-up assessment at 3 months. The BBA was assessed during admission and compared to the Barthel Index and Rivermead Mobility Index at 3 months.
Results: Balance disability was the strongest predictor of function (in terms of activities of daily living [ADLs] and mobility disability) in the acute stages. Weakness was also an independent predictor. Recovery of ADLs was independently predicted by balance disability, weakness, age, and premorbid disability, whereas recovery of mobility disability was predicted by balance and age alone. At 3 months, a minority of people with limited sitting balance (0%-22%) and standing balance (25%-50%) recovered independent functional mobility. Most people who could walk initially recovered independent functional mobility (66%-84%), but 16% suffered a decline in their mobility and 44% had enduring limitations in everyday mobility activities.
Conclusion: Initial balance disability is a strong predictor of function and recovery after stroke. These results demonstrate the predictive validity of the BBA.