Objectives: To determine physical therapists' perceptions and use of standardized assessments of walking ability post-stroke.
Design: Cross-sectional survey.
Methods: A questionnaire was posted to physical therapists in neurological practice registered in Ontario, Canada (n = 1155). Of the 705 responders, 270 treated adults with stroke and completed the questionnaire.
Results: Assessment tools most frequently used with > 6/10 patients were the Chedoke-McMaster Stroke Assessment (61.1%), Functional Independence Measure (45.2%), and gait speed test (32.2%). Only 11.1% consistently used the 6-minute walk test. The tools were used to evaluate (44.6%), monitor change over time (42.9%), form a prognosis (19.4%) or judge readiness for discharge (28.4%). Some therapists (40.1%) were unaware or unsure that valid and reliable measures of walking exist. As many as 80.5% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that clinical practice guidelines should recommend specific measures of walking ability for use post-stroke.
Conclusion: A moderate number of physical therapists consistently use standardized assessment tools to evaluate or monitor change in walking limitation post-stroke. Interventions to improve use must increase awareness, in addition to the perceived relevance and applicability, of recommended assessment tools.