A study published in The Lancet reports that three weeks of intensive speech and language therapy improves verbal communication in stroke patients with chronic aphasia.
Approximately 20% of patients who have experienced a stroke suffer from resultant chronic aphasia. Aphasia is the loss of ability to understand or express speech and is classified as chronic when it persists for 6 months or longer. The loss of blood supply that occurs during a stroke damages brain regions responsible for speech and results in aphasia. For stroke survivors, aphasia is a devastating symptom that can keep them from returning to work and negatively impacts their quality of life. It is recommended that patients with chronic aphasia undergo intensive speech and language therapy; however, trials examining treatment effectiveness are limited.
A recent study published in The Lancet aimed to examine whether 3 weeks (minimum of 10 hours per week) of routine intensive speech and language therapy improved verbal communication in stroke patients suffering from chronic aphasia. The study took place at 19 centers in Germany and included 159 stroke patients between the ages of 19-70 who had been suffering from aphasia for 6 months or longer. Following baseline assessments, half of the patients immediately received the intensive speech and language therapy protocol (intervention group), while the other half were subject to a 3-week deferral before beginning the same treatment (control group). The Amsterdam–Nijmegen Everyday Language Test A-scale was used to assess verbal communication effectiveness in everyday life scenarios immediately following completion of the three-week intensive therapy (intervention group) or three-week treatment deferral (control group).
Researchers found that compared to baseline measurements, verbal communication was significantly improved in patients that received the intensive speech and language therapy but not patients whose treatment was deferred. The control group received the three-week treatment after the three-week deferral and improvements similar to the intervention group were observed. In addition, follow-up assessments 3 and 6-weeks after treatment revealed sustained improvement. The study provides an evidence-based approach for treating stroke patients with chronic aphasia.
Written By: Katherine M. Evely, MS