Objective: To evaluate whether early mobilization after acute ischaemic stroke is better than delayed mobilization with regard to medical complications and if it is safe in relation to neurological function and cerebral blood flow.
Design: Randomized controlled pilot trial of early versus delayed mobilization out of bed with incidence of severe complications as the primary outcome.
Setting: Acute stroke unit in the neurology department of a University Hospital.
Participants: Fifty patients after ischaemic stroke with a National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score >6 were recruited.
Intervention: All patients were treated with physiotherapy immediately after their admission. In the early protocol patients were mobilized out of bed after 52 hours, in the delayed protocol after seven days.
Results: Eight out of 50 randomized patients were excluded from the per-protocol analysis because of early transfer to other hospitals. There were 2 (8%) severe complications in the 25 early mobilization patients and 8 (47%) in the 17 delayed mobilization patients (P < 0.006). There were no differences in the total number of complications or in clinical outcome. In the 26 patients (62%) who underwent serial transcranial Doppler ultrasonography, no blood flow differences were found.
Conclusion: We found an apparent reduction in severe complications and no increase in total complications with an early mobilization protocol after acute ischaemic stroke. No influence on neurological three-month outcomes or on cerebral blood flow was seen. These results justify larger trials comparing mobilization protocols with possibly even faster mobilization out of bed than explored here.