Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science
Background Very early aphasia rehabilitation studies have shown mixed results. Differences in therapy intensity and therapy type contribute significantly to the equivocal results. Aims To compare a standardized, prescribed very early aphasia therapy regimen with a historical usual care control group at therapy completion (4-5 weeks post-stroke) and again at follow-up (6 months). Methods & Procedures This study compared two cohorts from successive studies conducted in four Australian acute/sub-acute hospitals. The studies had near identical recruitment, blinded assessment and data-collection protocols. The Very Early Rehabilitation (VER) cohort (N = 20) had mild-severe aphasia and received up to 20 1-h sessions of impairment-based aphasia therapy, up to 5 weeks. The control cohort (n = 27) also had mild-severe aphasia and received usual care (UC) therapy for up to 4 weeks post-stroke. The primary outcome measure was the Aphasia Quotient (AQ) and a measure of communicative efficiency (DA) at therapy completion. Outcomes were measured at baseline, therapy completion and 6 months post-stroke and were compared using Generalised Estimating Equations (GEE) models. Outcomes & Results After controlling for initial aphasia and stroke disability, the GEE models demonstrated that at the primary end-point participants receiving VER achieved 18% greater recovery on the AQ and 1.5% higher DA scores than those in the control cohort. At 6 months, the VER participants maintained a 16% advantage in recovery on the AQ and 0.6% more on DA scores over the control cohort participants. Conclusions & Implications A prescribed, impairment-based aphasia therapy regimen, provided daily in very early post-stroke recovery, resulted in significantly greater communication gains in people with mild-severe aphasia at completion of therapy and at 6 months, when compared with a historical control cohort. Further research is required to demonstrate large-scale and long-term efficacy.