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Success rates of intensive aphasia therapy: real-world data from 448 patients between 2003 and 2020.

BACKGROUND: Aphasia is a devastating consequence after stroke, affecting millions of patients each year. Studies have shown that intensive speech and language therapy (SLT) is effective in the chronic phase of aphasia. Leveraging a large single-center cohort of persons with aphasia (PWA) including patients also in the subacute phase, we assessed treatment effects of intensive aphasia therapy in a real-world setting.

METHODS: Data were collected at the Aachen aphasia ward in Germany between 2003 and 2020. Immediate treatment responses across different language domains were assessed with the Aachen Aphasia Test (AAT) using single-case psychometrics, conducted before and after 6-7 weeks of intensive SLT (10 h per week, median (IQR) dosage = 68 (61-76)). We adjusted for spontaneous recovery in subacute patients. Differential treatment effects between subgroups of chronicity and predictors of therapy response were investigated.

RESULTS: A total of 448 PWA were included (29% female, median (IQR) age = 54 (46-62) years, median (IQR) time post-onset = 11 (6-20) months) with 12% in the early subacute, 15% in the late subacute and 74% in the chronic phase of aphasia. The immediate responder rate was 59%. Significant improvements in all AAT subtests und subscales were observed hinting at broad effectiveness across language domains. The degree of therapy-induced improvement did not differ between the chronicity groups. Time post-onset, dosage of therapy and aphasia severity at the beginning of treatment were predictors of immediate treatment response.

DISCUSSION: Intensive therapy protocols for aphasia after stroke are yielding substantial responder rates in a routine clinical setting including a wide range of patients.

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