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Rehab + Vagus Nerve Stimulation May Restore Arm Function After Stroke

Arm function improved for patients who had moderate-to-severe arm weakness at least nine months after ischemic stroke

MONDAY, May 10, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Patients with long-term loss of arm function after ischemic stroke have improvement in arm function following rehabilitation paired with vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), according to a study published in the April 24 issue of The Lancet.

Jesse Dawson, M.D., from the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a randomized, triple-blind, sham-controlled trial in 19 stroke rehabilitation services in the United Kingdom and the United States. A total of 108 participants with moderate-to-severe arm weakness at least nine months after ischemic stroke were randomly assigned to rehabilitation paired with active VNS (VNS group; 53 participants) or rehabilitation paired with sham stimulation (control group; 55 participants).

The researchers found that the Fugl-Meyer Assessment-Upper Extremity (FMA-UE) score increased by 5.0 points in the VNS group and by 2.4 points in the control group on the first day after completion of in-clinic therapy (between-group difference, 2.6; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.0 to 4.2; P = 0.0014). A clinically meaningful response on the FMA-UE score was achieved in 47 and 24 percent of patients in the VNS and control groups, respectively, at 90 days after in-clinic therapy (between-group difference, 24 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 6 to 41 percent; P = 0.0098). One serious adverse event related to surgery occurred in the control group (vocal cord paresis).

“These study results are the first of their kind, and open up new possibilities for stroke patients, allowing them to reclaim more arm function even years after having a stroke,” a coauthor said in a statement.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical industry.

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