Complications after stroke have been shown to impede rehabilitation, lead to poor functional outcome, and increase cost of care. This inception cohort study sought to investigate the prevalence of immobility-related complications during the first year after severely disabling stroke in relation to functional independence and place of residence.
Over a 7-month period, 600 stroke survivors were identified in the hospital through the Nottingham Stroke Register. Those who had a Barthel Index score <or=10 3 months poststroke and did not have a primary diagnosis of dementia were eligible to participate in the study. Assessments of complications were carried out at 3, 6, and 12 months poststroke.
Complications were recorded for 122 stroke survivors (mean age, 76 years; 57% male). Sixty-three (52%) had significant language impairment and of the remaining 59 who were able to complete an assessment of cognitive function, 10 (8%) were cognitively impaired. The numbers of reported complications over 12 months, in rank order, were falls, 89 (73%); contracture, 73 (60%); pain, 67 (55%); shoulder pain, 64 (52%); depression, 61 (50%); and pressure sores, 26 (22%). A negative correlation was found between Barthel Index score and the number of complications experienced (low scores on the Barthel Index correlate with a high number of complications). The highest relative percentages of complications were experienced by patients who were living in a nursing home at the time of their last completed assessment.
Immobility-related complications are very common in the first year after a severely disabling stroke. Patients who are more functionally dependent in self-care are likely to experience a greater number of complications than those who are less dependent. Trials of techniques to limit and prevent complication are required.