Objective: To test whether lesion site patterns in patients with chronic, severe aphasia who have no meaningful spontaneous speech are predictive of outcome following treatment with a nonverbal, icon-based computer-assisted visual communication (C-ViC) program.
Design: Retrospective study in which computed tomographic scans performed 3 months after onset of stroke and aphasia test scores obtained before C-ViC therapy were reviewed for patients after receiving C-ViC treatment.
Setting: A neurology department and speech pathology service of a Department of Veterans Affairs medical center and a university aphasia research center.
Patients: Seventeen patients with stroke and severe aphasia who began treatment with C-ViC from 3 months to 10 years after onset of stroke.
Main outcome measure: Level of ability to use C-ViC on a personal computer to communicate.
Results: All patients with bilateral lesions failed to learn C-ViC. For patients with unilateral left hemisphere lesion sites, statistical analyses accurately discriminated between those who could initiate communication with C-ViC from those who were only able to answer directed questions. The critical lesion areas involved temporal lobe structures (Wernicke cortical area and the subcortical temporal isthmus), supraventricular frontal lobe structures (supplementary motor area or cingulate gyrus 24), and the subcortical medial subcallosal fasciculus, deep to the Broca area. Specific lesion sites were also identified for appropriate candidacy for C-ViC.
Conclusions: Lesion site patterns on computed tomographic scans are helpful to define candidacy for C-ViC training, and to predict outcome level. A practical method is presented for clinical application of these lesion site results in combination with aphasia test scores.