Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2022 Dec 28:15459683221143461. doi: 10.1177/15459683221143461. Online ahead of print.
The Critical Periods After Stroke Study (CPASS, n = 72) showed that, compared to controls, an additional 20 hours of intensive upper limb therapy led to variable gains on the Action Research Arm Test depending on when therapy was started post-stroke: the subacute group (2-3 months) improved beyond the minimal clinically important difference and the acute group (0-1 month) showed smaller but statistically significant improvement, but the chronic group (6-9 months) did not demonstrate improvement that reached significance. Some have misinterpreted CPASS results to indicate that all inpatient motor therapy should be shifted to outpatient therapy delivered 2 to 3 months post-stroke. Instead, however, CPASS argues for a large dose of motor therapy delivered continuously and cumulatively during the acute and subacute phases. When interpreting trials like CPASS, one must consider the substantial dose of early usual customary care (UCC) motor therapy that all participants received. CPASS participants averaged 27.9 hours of UCC occupational therapy (OT) during the first 2 months and 9.8 hours of UCC OT during the third and fourth months post-stroke. Any recovery experienced would therefore result not just from CPASS intensive motor therapy but the combined effects of experimental therapy plus UCC. Statistical limitations also did not allow direct comparisons of the acute and subacute group outcomes in CPASS. Instead of shifting inpatient therapy hours to the subacute phase, CPASS argues for preserving inpatient UCC. We also recommend conducting multi-site dosing trials to determine whether additional intensive motor therapy delivered in the first 2 to 3 months following inpatient rehabilitation can further improve outcomes.