As stroke care has developed, there has been a need to robustly assess the efficacy of interventions both at the level of the individual stroke survivor and in the context of clinical trials. To describe stroke-survivor recovery meaningfully, more sophisticated measures are required than simple dichotomous end points, such as mortality or stroke recurrence. As stroke is an exemplar disabling long-term condition, measures of function are well suited as outcome assessment. In this review, we will describe functional assessment scales in stroke, concentrating on three of the more commonly used tools: the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale, the modified Rankin Scale, and the Barthel Index. We will discuss the strengths, limitations, and application of these scales and use the scales to highlight important properties that are relevant to all assessment tools. We will frame much of this discussion in the context of "clinimetric" analysis. As they are increasingly used to inform stroke-survivor assessments, we will also discuss some of the commonly used quality-of-life measures. A recurring theme when considering functional assessment is that no tool suits all situations. Clinicians and researchers should chose their assessment tool based on the question of interest and the evidence base around clinimetric properties.
Keywords: Barthel Index; National Institutes Health Stroke Scale; clinical trial; clinimetrics; disability; methodology; modified Rankin Scale; outcomes; scales; stroke.