The modified National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale: its time has come

Int J Stroke. 2009 Aug;4(4):267-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-4949.2009.00294.x.


The National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) is a well known, reliable and valid stroke deficit scale. The NIHSS is simple, quick, and has shown significant reliability in diverse groups, settings, and languages. The NIHSS also contains items with poor reliability and redundancy. Recent investigations (include assessing a new training DVD, analyzing webbased or videotape certifications, and testing foreign language versions) have further detailed reliability issues. Items recurrently shown to have poor reliability include Level of Consciousness, Facial Palsy, Limb Ataxia, and Dysarthria. The modified NIHSS (mNIHSS) minimizes redundancy and eliminates poorly reliable items. The mNIHSS shows greater reliability in multiple settings and cohorts, including scores abstracted from records, when used via telemedicine, and when used in clinical trials. In a validation of the mNIHSS against the NIHSS, the number of elements with excellent agreement increased from 54% to 71%, while poor agreement decreased from 12% to 5%. Overall, 45% of NIHSS items had less than excellent reliability vs. only 29% for the mNIHSS. The mNIHSS is not the ideal stroke scale, but it is a significant improvement over the NIHSS. The mNIHSS has shown reliability at bedside, with record abstraction, with telemedicine, and in clinical trials. Since the mNIHSS is more reliable, it may allow for improved practitioner communication, improved medical care, and refinement of trial enrollments. The mNIHSS should now serve as the primary stroke clinical deficit scale for clinical and research aims. When it comes to the mNIHSS, its time has come!

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Stroke / diagnosis*
  • Stroke / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States