CSM revisit: Sensory deficits post stroke: best practice treatment
Jane E. Sullivan, PT, DHS from Northwestern University presented compelling evidence that Physical therapists need to be treating sensory dysfunction after stroke (Post Stroke Sensory Dysfunction, or PSSD). First, this is truly common, although it is rarely addressed by PT outside of proprioception (where is your arm? Are you sitting up straight? Where are your feet? Etc). In addition, the loss patterns do not follow motor loss patterns, and so these do need to be tested.
A study done by Connell in 2008 found that there was high agreement between different body areas for each modality, but there was low agreement between modalities in each area! This means PTs need to test each modality. Tyson et al in 2007 found that stroke severity and weakness are significantly correlated with PSSD, a finding later corroborated by Connell in 2008.
Also correlated with decreased sensory were outcomes such as increased length of stay, decreased bowel/bladder independence, decreased ability to perform ADL’s, etc. There were many studies cited in this presentation which link low sensory function with discharge placement, slow recovery of motor function, and even mortality.
The good news is this: the neurological system is moldable and trainable. We know that motor patterns can be learned; so too can sensory. There is natural recovery, anatomical redundancy, and bilateral pathways all improve the prognosis.
The reliability and validity of sensory tests were explored, and while there are some issues in this area, the following recommendations were made: 1. Screen everyone (post-stroke) for all modalities including stereognosis. 2. Formally test if linked to movement dysfunction and goals. 3. Standardize your exam.
Obviously, there is a need for more research, but there are promising studies that link improved upper extremity sensation with improved balance outcomes. Electrical stimulation studies have shown excellent potential for “waking up” the sensory system, with improvements noted in spasticity, force, perception, selective movement, as well as balance and gait. Vibration, thermotherapy, intermittent compression, graphesthesia and discrimination tasks and passive movement all show improvement (passive range of motion shows fMRI but not clinical improvement). Finally, these changes persist! There is yet to be any meaningful dose-response trial, however.
The parameters recommended at this time across interventions are: Brief (20-30 min – they will get tired!), and repetitive (3-5 days per week) for several weeks. With any of these treatments, practice mastered tasks first and last, take breaks, and aim for limbic involvement and active attention. Reduce the stress in the environment so the patient may attend to the task as well. A quiet nervous system will respond more dramatically to changes, and above all, PRACTICE!
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Documenting therapy and rehabilitation services
4 years ago