Actual functional performance of 976 acute stroke patients was assessed using the Barthel index: the data were analysed to determine the frequency of disability after stroke, the validity of the Barthel index, and the recovery seen. At 6 months, over 45% of survivors were functionally independent. Validity of the Barthel index was confirmed: it related as expected with motor loss and factor analysis showed a single major factor. The items of the Barthel index form an hierarchical scale. There was some recovery between 3 weeks and 6 months in almost all patients: the major prognostic factors were urinary incontinence, functional ability, sitting balance and age.
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