June 9, 2005 -- Short but intensive rounds of speech therapy may be better for restoring language skills lost to a stroke than traditional methods.
Researchers found stroke survivors who had difficulty speaking or understanding speech showed significant improvement in language and communication skills after a short term of intensive speech therapy.
Language impairment -- or aphasia -- occurs in more than a third of people who survive a stroke on the left side of their brain. Many recover within a few months after the stroke, but up to 60% still have language impairments more than six months after a stroke, a condition known as chronic aphasia.
"Usually patients in the chronic stage of aphasia receive about two hours of therapy a week over the course of a year, but we found that it is better to give the therapy within a shorter period of time," says researcher Marcus Meinzer, PhD, of the Unversität Konstanz in Konstanz, Germany, in a news release.
Short-Term Therapy May Help Speech
In the study, researchers examined the effects of a short-term, intensive round of speech therapy in 27 stroke survivors who had suffered from language impairment for about four years.
Each of the stroke survivors received 30 hours of language training three hours a day for 10 days; their language skills were assessed before and immediately after the training as well as six months later.
The results appear in the June edition of Stroke.
The speech therapy used a technique called constraint-induced aphasia therapy or CIAT, which combines intense verbal communication training with language games that build simple as well as complex language skills.
The technique encourages stroke patients to speak rather than using gestures as their primary means of communication.
The results showed that language skills improved significantly in 85% of the stroke patients after the intensive speech therapy, and those improvements were sustained for six months.
Researchers also found that the improvement occurred regardless of the stroke survivor's age or the severity of his or her language impairment.
In addition, the study showed that 15 stroke patients who received additional language training, which was reinforced by family members and friends, showed further improvements.