Stroke Case Study Physical Therapy


Background and purpose: This case study and evidence-based analysis aims to determine which intervention or combination of interventions commonly cited in available research is most effective in facilitating a more efficient, coordinated gait pattern in patients with acute stroke. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts, causing damage to the brain. Stroke is the second leading global cause of death and accounts for 11% of deaths worldwide. Stroke continues to be a major cause of disability and a very common diagnosis seen in physical therapy. It is currently controversial which physical therapy interventions are most effective in the treatment of acute stroke and some therapists continue to use interventions that studies have found to be ineffective. Many studies investigating acute stroke have themselves been found to be underpowered, biased and misleading. Case Description: The patient, Mrs. M, was an 85 year old female who suffered a left cerebrovascular accident (CVA) in late November. She was hospitalized 4 days, admitted to a rehabilitation hospital in early December and to a skilled nursing facility in late December. The patient presented with right hemiparesis, decreased muscle strength, right foot drop, an inefficient, uncoordinated gait pattern, impaired balance and transfer abilities, limited overall mobility and safety, expressive and receptive aphasia, fatigue and confusion. In addition to right hemiparesis, she reported significant left flank pain limiting function of her left side. Outcomes: A review of current literature revealed that a intensive and organized treatment plan including some or all of the following specific interventions, tailored to each patients needs with close monitoring of patient response, can decrease deficits, increase independence and improve overall outcomes for patients with acute stroke. The specific recommended interventions include: therapeutic exercise, task-oriented training, biofeedback, overground/treadmill gait training, balance/transfer training, constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT), treatment of shoulder subluxation, electrical stimulation, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), therapeutic ultrasound and acupuncture. Discussion: The overall quality of current research in acute stroke rehabilitation is moderate with many studies demonstrating questionable reliability, validity and generalizability. This analysis focused on higher-level systematic reviews and meta-analyses of current stroke research to determine which intervention or combination of interventions were most effective in acute stroke gait training. This analysis found a general consensus that an intense, individualized combination of the above interventions is most effective, affordable and safe in acute stroke gait training. More high-quality research is needed involving similar stroke patient demographics, research designs, and outcome measures to further investigate intervention effects and to determine consistent, accepted parameters and protocols for optimal acute stroke rehabilitation.


Submitted by Corinna Michelle Benjamin ( on 2015-06-22T22:45:55Z No. of bitstreams: 2 CBenjamin_Gait_Training_In_Acute_Stroke.docx: 281514 bytes, checksum: df2f52892e831e37846fb88fb96ebe51 (MD5) CBenjamin_Poster.pdf: 2320038 bytes, checksum: 4ecf49c6624882e9b55fb64cf69ae379 (MD5), Made available in DSpace on 2015-06-22T22:45:55Z (GMT). No. of bitstreams: 2 CBenjamin_Gait_Training_In_Acute_Stroke.docx: 281514 bytes, checksum: df2f52892e831e37846fb88fb96ebe51 (MD5) CBenjamin_Poster.pdf: 2320038 bytes, checksum: 4ecf49c6624882e9b55fb64cf69ae379 (MD5) Previous issue date: 2015-06-22


Gait Training, Acute stroke, Stroke Rehabilitation, Functional Electrical Stimulation, Treadmill Training

Recommended Citation

Benjamin, Corinna M.. "Gait Training in Acute Stroke: A Case Study and Evidence-Based Literature Analysis." (2015).


This case study forms part of the Stroke Course

History of Presenting Condition

Michael is a 61 year old Senior Partner in a Law Firm. While eating breakfast Michael experienced sudden onset slurring of speech, had facial droop on his left hand side with weakness in left side upper and lower limbs. Michael's wife Mary spotted these sudden onset of symptoms and immediately called for an ambulance, which arrived within 15 mins.

Past Medical History

Asthma - Dx Aged 8

Hypertension Grade 1 - Dx 5 years ago

Prediabetes - Dx 3 years ago

Medication History

Seretide Accuhaler

Ventolin (As Required - Not Required for over 1 Year)


Social History

61 Year Old Senior Partner at a Law Firm, recently reduced working hours 20 - 30 hours per week, previously worked 50 - 60 Hours

Planning on retirement in 1 - 2 years

Lives in a Bungalow with his wife Mary, who is a recently Retired Teacher.

2 Adult Children, both married with their own children - 1 lives close by, the other lives overseas.

Lifestyle Changes implmented over past 2 - 3 Years foloowing Dx Prediabetes.

Outside work he enjoys golf, usually playing at least 2-3 per week. Also enjoys playing Bridge with Friends.

Took up walking 3 Years ago following Dx Prediabetes. Walks 5 - 6 days per week for between 30 - 45 mins

Ex-Smoker - Hx Smoking 30 Years x 10 - 15/day - Quit 3 Years ago following Dx Prediabetes

Social Beer Drinker 10 - 15 Standard Drinks per week with 3 - 4 per session, although sometimes after Golf may be more.

Pre-Hospital Assessment


Physical Exam:

FAST +ve

  • Left Facial Droop
  • Left Motor Weakness: Upper Limb 0/5, Lower Limb 2/5
  • Slurred Speech 

Pre Hospital Assessment Scale:

Los Angeles Prehospital Stroke Screen (LAPSS) & Los Angeles Motor Scale (LAMS)


1. Age greater than 45 years 


2. History of Seizures or Epilepsy 


3. Onset of Neurological Symptoms is less than 24 hours 


4. Patient was Ambulatory prior to onset of symptoms 


5. Blood Glucose between 60 and 400 mg/dl




6. Motor Exam: Examine for Motor Asymmetry

    Based on Exam below, patient has Unilateral 'Weakness:

  EqualRightLeftLAMS SCORE
Facial Smile / Grimace  
Droop 1
Grip Strength  

No Grip

 Arm Srength  

Falls Rapidly


Acute Hospital Assessment


Physical Exam:

  • Confusion
  • Left Facial Droop
  • Slurred Speech 
  • Left Motor Weakness Upper Limb 0/5, Lower Limb 2/5
  • Decreased Tone
  • Altered Sensation
  • Mild Left Sided Neglect

Acute Assessment Scale:

NIH Stroke Scale: 19

Test ElementsOn Admission12 Hours post tPA24 Hours post tPA
Level Of Consciousness 1 0 0
LOC Questions 2 1 0
LOC Commands 1 1 0
Best Gaze 1 1 1
Visual Field Testing 1 1 1
Facial Palsy 2 2 1
Motor Function Arm Right 0 0 0
Motor Function Arm Left 4 3 2
Motor Function Right Leg 0 0 0
Motor Function Left Leg 2 2 1
Limb Ataxia 0 0 0
Sensory 1 1 1
Aphasia 1 1 0
Dysarthria 2 1 1
Extinction & Inattention 1 1 1
Total Score19159




  • Hyperdensity in the M1 Segment of the Right Middle Cerebral Artery, with no other signs suggestive of an Ischemic Stroke noted.
    Provisional diagnosis of Acute Ischemic Stroke secondary to occlusion of the M1 was made
    Patient was treated with intravenous Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA) at 1 h 54 min after symptom onset


  • Multimodal MRI Scan completed at 3 h 09 min after symptom onset demonstrated Ischemic Changes confined predominantly to the Right Middle Cerebral Artery
  • Perfusion-weighted MRI showed larger perfusion abnormality, indicating presence of a substantial volume of potentially salvageable penumbral tissue.
  • Time-of-flight magnetic resonance angiography showed a loss of signal in the Right Internal Carotid Artery and Middle Cerebral Artery.

Cerebral Angiography

  • Cerebral angiogram performed post MRI demonstrated Occlusive Thrombus extending from the Right Internal Carotid Artery Origin through the Right Middle Cerebral Artery Trunk.
  • Recanalization was attempted by Endovascular Thrombectomy performed 4 h 19 min after symptom onset

Medical Management

Thrombolysis & Endovascular Mechanical Thrombectomy:

  • Discussed with Family & Patient
  • tPA Prescribed and Initiated within 1hr 54mins After Onset Symptoms
  • Endovascualr Thrombectomy Initiated at 3hr 

Stroke Unit:

  • Admitted to Acute Stroke Unit
  • 24 Hour Monitoring
  • MDT Referral Received within 24 Hours - OT, SLT & PT

Physiotherapy Objective

Physiotherapy Management

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