June 27, 2011

Therapy Increases Survival For Stroke Patients

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study shows patients who received several sessions of "motivational interviews" shortly after suffering a stroke had fewer instances of depression and better survival rates at one year compared to those who did not participate in the interviews.

Motivational interviewing is a talk-based therapy for patients with health problems that require behavior change. For this study, the interviews were conducted to support adjustment after stroke. Depression is a common problem after stroke that can interfere with recovery, survival and adaptation to a normal life.

"Prior studies targeting depressed stroke patients have had limited success, but the depression may have already interfered with rehabilitation and recovery," Caroline Watkins, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of Stroke and Older People's Care at University of Central Lancashire in England, was quoted as saying."We found that early intervention helped people set realistic expectations for recovery, avoid some of the misery associated with life after stroke, and may even help them live longer."

Researchers studied 411 patients in a hospital stroke unit. The patients were an average of 70 years old, and a little more than half were male. They all received standard care, and half were assigned to one therapist for up to four 30- to 60-minute sessions of talk-based therapy within two to four weeks of suffering a stroke.

During the therapy, patients were asked about their thoughts for the future, what hurdles they expected to face in recovery, and how confident they felt about facing these hurdles. The therapists encouraged patients to identify their own solutions to the problems they anticipated.

Results showed after one year, 48 percent of patients who had the early, talk-based therapy had a normal mood compared to 37.7 percent of patients who did not have the talk-based therapy. The death rate among the interview group was 6.5 percent compared to 12.8 percent in the non-interview group.

"The simplicity and brevity of this intervention makes it inexpensive to deliver, and yet it has the potential to give huge benefits to its recipients," Watkins said. "It's imperative that further research is supported to ensure effective methods of implementation are developed."

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, June 2011