Changes in upper limb capacity and performance in the early and late subacute phase after stroke

Camilla Lundquist, Binh T Nguyen, Thomas Bo Hvidt, Henriette Holm Stabel, Jeanette Reffstrup Christensen, Iris Brunner*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: The course of spontaneous biological recovery indicates that no essential improvements in upper limb (UL) capacity should be expected 3 months after stroke. Likewise, UL performance as assessed with accelerometers does not seem to increase. However, this plateau may not apply to all patients with stroke. Objectives: This study aimed to investigate the changes in UL capacity and performance from 3 to 6 months post-stroke, and the association between patients’ UL capacity and actual UL performance. Methods: This study was a secondary analysis of a prospective longitudinal cohort study. Patients with UL impairment and first or recurrent stroke were included. Their UL capacity was assessed at 3 and 6 months with the Action Research Arm Test (ARAT) and UL performance was examined with accelerometry and expressed as a use ratio. The association between ARAT and use ratio was examined with multiple regression analyses. Results: Data from 67 patients were analyzed. It was shown that UL capacity as assessed with ARAT still improved from 3 to 6 months. A clinically meaningful improvement (≥ 6 points on ARAT) was found in 16 (46%) of the 35 patients whose scores allowed for such an increase. Improvements were mainly observed for patients with ARAT scores in the range of 15-51 at 3 months. Conversely, UL performance did not change. Three and 6 months after stroke respectively 69% and 64% of the variation in use ratio was explained by ARAT. Conclusion: While a substantial part of patients improved their UL capacity, UL performance did not change from 3 to 6 months post-stroke. Strategies to remind patients of including their affected UL may encourage the transfer from better capacity to increased performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106590
JournalJournal of stroke and cerebrovascular diseases
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Accelerometry
  • Neurorehabilitation
  • Stroke
  • Upper limb capacity
  • Upper limb performance


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