Similar motor recovery of upper and lower extremities after stroke

Pamela W. Duncan, Larry B. Goldstein, Ronnie D. Horner, Pamela B. Landsman, Gregory P. Samsa, David B. Matchar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

307 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose This study examined the validity of the clinical tenet that poststroke recovery of the upper extremity is less rapid and complete than poststroke recovery of the lower extremity. Previous studies comparing upper and lower extremity recovery have evaluated disability rather than motor impairment. Individuals with lower extremity impair­ments may be more functional and appear less disabled than individuals with upper extremity impairments. Function of the upper extremity requires finer motor control, for which the patient can less readily compensate. Therefore, impairments and disability would predictably be more highly correlated in this area. We tested the hypothesis that upper and lower extremity motor recovery are similar. Methods The 95 patients selected for this study were enrolled in the Durham County Stroke Study and had been diagnosed with anterior circulation ischemic stroke. Each subject received Fugl-Meyer assessments within 24 hours of admission and then 5, 30, 90, and 180 days after stroke. We used these assessments to compare the time course and patterns of motor function of the upper and lower extremities. Results Repeated-measures ANOVA revealed that per­cent maximal motor recovery was significantly (P<.001) af­fected by time after stroke but not by extremity (upper extremity versus lower extremity) (P=.32). When stroke se­verity level is controlled, the upper and lower extremities continue to show no difference in percent motor recovery (P=.19). Conclusions In patients with anterior circulation ischemic stroke, the severity of motor impairment and the patterns of motor recovery are similar for the upper and lower extremi­ties. The most rapid recovery for both extremities occurs within 30 days.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1181-1188
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Motor activity
  • Rehabilitation
  • Stroke outcome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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