Prevalence of Walking Limitation after Acute Stroke and its Impact on Discharge to Home

Phys Ther. 2021 Oct 23:pzab246. doi: 10.1093/ptj/pzab246. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to provide contemporary estimates of the prevalence of lower extremity motor impairment and walking limitation after first-ever stroke, and to characterize the predictive nature of early walking ability for being discharged home after acute hospitalization.

METHODS: In this cohort study, data were collected from a metropolitan acute care hospital in Canada at admission for 487 adults with first-ever acute ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke. Lower extremity motor impairment and walking limitation were measured using the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale and AlphaFIM, respectively. Parallel multivariable logistic regression models were built to predict discharge home after acute hospitalization, compared to further hospitalization.

RESULTS: For patients surviving a first-ever stroke, 44.1% presented with some degree of lower extremity motor impairment and 46.0% were unable to walk. In a multivariable model built around a binary classification of walking (Nagelkerke R2 = 0.41), those with any ability to walk at admission (with or without therapist assistance) had 9.48 times greater odds of being discharged home (odds ratio [OR] =9.48, 95% CI = 6.11 – 14.92) than those who were unable. In a parallel multivariable model built around an ordinal classification of walking (Nagelkerke R2 = 0.49), patients had 2.07 times greater odds (OR = 2.07, 95% CI = 1.82 – 2.38) of being discharged home for each increment on a 6-point walking scale (total dependence to complete independence) assessed at acute admission.

CONCLUSION: Approximately half of patients with first-ever stroke present with lower extremity weakness and walking limitation. Early walking ability is a significant predictor of returning home after acute hospitalization, independent of stroke severity. Discharge planning may be facilitated early after stroke with the familiar assessment of walking ability.

IMPACT: An early assessment of walking function within days of stroke admission can help to streamline discharge planning.

LAY SUMMARY: Nearly half of all individuals who experience a first-time stroke have walking difficulty when they arrive to the hospital. The severity of the walking limitation can predict whether a patient will eventually be discharged home or go on to further hospitalization.

PMID:34718796 | DOI:10.1093/ptj/pzab246

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