Prediction of recovery of motor function after stroke

Lancet Neurol. 2010 Dec;9(12):1228-1232. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(10)70247-7. Epub 2010 Oct 27.


Background: Stroke is a leading cause of disability. The ability to live independently after stroke depends largely on the reduction of motor impairment and the recovery of motor function. Accurate prediction of motor recovery assists rehabilitation planning and supports realistic goal setting by clinicians and patients. Initial impairment is negatively related to degree of recovery, but inter-individual variability makes accurate prediction difficult. Neuroimaging and neurophysiological assessments can be used to measure the extent of stroke damage to the motor system and predict subsequent recovery of function, but these techniques are not yet used routinely.

Recent developments: The use of motor impairment scores and neuroimaging has been refined by two recent studies in which these investigations were used at multiple time points early after stroke. Voluntary finger extension and shoulder abduction within 5 days of stroke predicted subsequent recovery of upper-limb function. Diffusion-weighted imaging within 7 days detected the effects of stroke on caudal motor pathways and was predictive of lasting motor impairment. Thus, investigations done soon after stroke had good prognostic value. The potential prognostic value of cortical activation and neural plasticity has been explored for the first time by two recent studies. Functional MRI detected a pattern of cortical activation at the acute stage that was related to subsequent reduction in motor impairment. Transcranial magnetic stimulation enabled measurement of neural plasticity in the primary motor cortex, which was related to subsequent disability. These studies open interesting new lines of enquiry. WHERE NEXT?: The accuracy of prediction might be increased by taking into account the motor system's capacity for functional reorganisation in response to therapy, in addition to the extent of stroke-related damage. Improved prognostic accuracy could also be gained by combining simple tests of motor impairment with neuroimaging, genotyping, and neurophysiological assessment of neural plasticity. The development of algorithms to guide the sequential combinations of these assessments could also further increase accuracy, in addition to improving rehabilitation planning and outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Movement Disorders / diagnosis
  • Movement Disorders / etiology*
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Stroke / complications*