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Evaluating neurorehabilitation: lessons from routine data collection
  1. J A Freeman1,2,
  2. J C Hobart1,3,
  3. E D Playford1,
  4. B Undy2,
  5. A J Thompson1
  1. 1Institute of Neurology, London, UK
  2. 2University of Plymouth, Plymouth, Devon, UK
  3. 3Peninsula Medical School, Plymouth, Devon, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr J A Freeman
 Faculty of Health and Social Work, Room C506 Portland Square, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, UK;


Background: Clinical databases are being used increasingly to assess outcomes in healthcare services to provide evidence of clinical effectiveness in routine clinical practice.

Objectives: To explore the benefits of a database for routine collection of clinical outcomes within an inpatient neurorehabilitation setting; determine the effectiveness of inpatient neurorehabilitation in a range of neurological conditions; and determine variables influencing change in functional outcome.

Methods: Over a nine year period, demographic and diagnostic characteristics were collected for the 1458 patients admitted consecutively to a neurorehabilitation unit. The level of function was measured on admission and discharge using the Barthel Index (BI) and Functional Independence Measure (FIM). Patient perception of rehabilitation benefit was evaluated using visual analogue scales (VAS).

Results: Of the 1413 patients (mean (SD) age 48 (14.8), range 16 to 87) whose length of stay was more than 10 days (mean 34 (24) range 10 to 184), 282 had stroke, 614 multiple sclerosis, 248 spinal cord injuries, 93 a neuromuscular condition, and 176 other brain pathology. Patients improved in functional ability as measured by both BI and the FIM motor subscale (effect sizes 0.93 to 1.44 and 1.01 to 1.48, respectively). VAS ratings demonstrated high levels of patient perceived benefit. Diagnosis, functional activity score on admission, and length of stay were significant predictors of functional gain, explaining 44% of the variability in the change scores.

Conclusions: Systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of standardised clinical outcomes data are feasible within routine clinical practice, and provide evidence that inpatient rehabilitation is effective in improving functional level in neurologically impaired patients. These data complement those of clinical trials and are useful in informing and developing clinical and research practice.

  • BI, Barthel Index
  • FIM, Functional Independence Measure
  • ICP, integrated care pathway
  • MS, multiple sclerosis
  • NRU, Neurorehabilitation Unit (of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery)
  • VAS, visual analogue scale(s)
  • database
  • evaluation
  • neurorehabilitation
  • outcomes

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  • Competing interests: none declared