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Somatosensory Impairments in the Upper Limb Poststroke: Distribution and Association With Motor Function and Visuospatial Neglect.

BACKGROUND: A thorough understanding of the presence of different upper-limb somatosensory deficits poststroke and the relation with motor performance remains unclear. Additionally, knowledge about the relation between somatosensory deficits and visuospatial neglect is limited.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the distribution of upper-limb somatosensory impairments and the association with unimanual and bimanual motor outcomes and visuospatial neglect.

METHODS: A cross-sectional observational study was conducted, including 122 patients within 6 months after stroke (median = 82 days; interquartile range = 57-133 days). Somatosensory measurement included the Erasmus MC modification of the (revised) Nottingham Sensory Assessment (Em-NSA), Perceptual Threshold of Touch (PTT), thumb finding test, 2-point discrimination, and stereognosis subscale of the NSA. Upper-limb motor assessment comprised the Fugl-Meyer assessment, motricity index, Action Research Arm Test, and Adult-Assisting Hand Assessment Stroke. Screening for visuospatial neglect was performed using the Star Cancellation Test.

RESULTS: Upper-limb somatosensory impairments were common, with prevalence rates ranging from 21% to 54%. Low to moderate Spearman ρ correlations were found between somatosensory and motor deficits (r = 0.22-0.61), with the strongest associations for PTT (r = 0.56-0.61) and stereognosis (r = 0.51-0.60). Visuospatial neglect was present in 27 patients (22%). Between-group analysis revealed somatosensory deficits that occurred significantly more often and more severely in patients with visuospatial neglect (P < .05). Results showed consistently stronger correlations between motor and somatosensory deficits in patients with visuospatial neglect (r = 0.44-0.78) compared with patients without neglect (r = 0.08-0.59).

CONCLUSIONS: Somatosensory impairments are common in subacute patients poststroke and are related to motor outcome. Visuospatial neglect was associated with more severe upper-limb somatosensory impairments.

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