Recovery from aphasia in the first year after stroke
Most individuals who experience aphasia after a stroke recover to some extent, with the majority of gains taking place in the first year. The nature and timecourse of this recovery process is only partially understood, especially its dependence on lesion location and extent, which are the most important determinants of outcome. The aim of this study was to provide a comprehensive description of patterns of recovery from aphasia in the first year after stroke.
We recruited 334 patients with acute left hemisphere supratentorial ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, and evaluated their speech and language function within 5 days using the Quick Aphasia Battery. At this initial timepoint, 218 patients presented with aphasia. Individuals with aphasia were followed longitudinally, with follow-up evaluations of speech and language at 1 month, 3 months, and 1 year post stroke, wherever possible. Lesions were manually delineated based on acute clinical MRI or CT imaging. Patients with and without aphasia were divided into 13 groups of individuals with similar, commonly occurring patterns of brain damage. Trajectories of recovery were then investigated as a function of group (i.e., lesion location and extent) and speech/language domain (overall language function, word comprehension, sentence comprehension, word finding, grammatical construction, phonological encoding, speech motor programming, speech motor execution, and reading).
We found that aphasia is dynamic, multidimensional, and gradated, with little explanatory role for aphasia subtypes or binary concepts such as fluency. Patients with circumscribed frontal lesions recovered well, consistent with some previous observations. More surprisingly, most patients with larger frontal lesions extending into the parietal or temporal lobes also recovered well, as did patients with relatively circumscribed temporal, temporoparietal, or parietal lesions. Persistent moderate or severe deficits were common only in patients with extensive damage throughout the middle cerebral artery distribution, or extensive temporoparietal damage. There were striking differences between speech/language domains in their rates of recovery and their relationships to overall language function, suggesting that specific domains differ in the extent to which they are redundantly represented throughout the language network, as opposed to depending on specialized cortical substrates.
Our findings have an immediate clinical application in that they will enable clinicians to estimate the likely course of recovery for individual patients, as well as the uncertainty of these predictions, based on acutely observable neurological factors.
Wilson, SM; Entrup, JL; Schneck, SM; Onuscheck, CF; Levy, DF; Rahman, M; Willey, E; Casilio, M; Yen, M; Brito, A; Kam, W; Davis, LT; de Riesthal, M; Kirshner, HS
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