Intensive speech and language therapy can significantly help stroke patients who have been struggling to communicate for six months or more, according to newly published research.
Dr Stefanie Abel from The University of Manchester, co-author of new study, says patients with chronic aphasia need far more than they are currently getting on the health services to help them improve their everyday communication and health-related quality of life.
The multicentre RCT study – carried out in Germany and published in The Lancet - has for the first time directly demonstrated the superiority of intensive speech therapy to no treatment or treatment at low intensity in chronic post-stroke aphasia.
The project team was led by Dr Caterina Breitenstein, University of Muenster, and Prof Annette Baumgaertner, University of Applied Sciences Fresenius in Hamburg.
Dr Abel argues intensity should be drastically increased for treatment to be effective.
Future studies may investigate which level of intensity is required for a similar effect, to allow speech therapy to be both effective and efficient.
It’s one thing to anticipate that higher intensities of speech therapy will improve the verbal communications skills of stroke patients, but it’s another to prove it. We can now be certain that this more intensive regime will work for the majority of these patients, and could provide important opportunities for them to cope better with this debilitating problem.
We expect and hope our trial to have great impact on clinical practice and health care for people with aphasia internationally. Now the evidence is out there, we hope health services will take note.
Dr Abel, speech therapy supervisor and developer of the impairment-based outcome measure, from which all linguistic exercises in the study were derived.
The project was funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and the German Society for Aphasia Research and Treatment (GAB).
The paper “Intensive speech and language therapy in patients with chronic aphasia after stroke: a randomised, open-label, blinded-endpoint, controlled trial in a health-care setting” can be downloaded at http://fcet2ec.aphasiegesellschaft.de/index.php/weitere-informationen/veroffentlichungen/ (2016, free accepted version).
The final version is available from Dr. Abel (firstname.lastname@example.org) or can be downloaded at: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)30067-3/fulltext