Contemporary outcome measures in acute stroke research: choice of primary outcome measure.


Background and purpose

The diversity of available outcome measures for acute stroke trials is challenging and implies that the scales may be imperfect. To assist researchers planning trials and to aid interpretation, this article reviews and makes recommendations on the available choices of scales. The aim is to identify an approach that will be universally accepted and that should be included in most acute trials, without seeking to restrict options for special circumstances.


The article considers outcome measures that have been widely used or are currently advised. It examines desirable properties for outcome measures such as validity, relevance, responsiveness, statistical properties, availability of training, cultural and language issues, resistance to comorbidity, as well as potential weaknesses. Tracking and agreement among outcomes are covered.


Typical ranges of scores for the common scales are described, along with their statistical properties, which in turn influence optimal analytic techniques. The timing of recovery on scores and usual practice in trial design are considered.


The preferred outcome measure for acute trials is the modified Rankin Scale, assessed at 3 months after stroke onset or later. The interview should be conducted by a certified rater and should involve both the patient and any relevant caregiver. Incremental benefits at any level of the modified Rankin Scale may be acceptable. The modified Rankin Scale is imperfect but should be retained in its present form for comparability with existing treatment comparisons. No second measure should be required, but correlations with supporting scales may be used to confirm consistency in direction of effects on other measures.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Lees, Kennedy R, Philip MW Bath, Peter D Schellinger, Daniel M Kerr, Rachael Fulton, Werner Hacke, David Matchar, Ruchir Sehra, et al. (2012). Contemporary outcome measures in acute stroke research: choice of primary outcome measure. Stroke, 43(4). pp. 1163–1170. 10.1161/strokeaha.111.641423 Retrieved from

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David Bruce Matchar

Professor of Medicine

My research relates to clinical practice improvement - from the development of clinical policies to their implementation in real world clinical settings. Most recently my major content focus has been cerebrovascular disease. Other major clinical areas in which I work include the range of disabling neurological conditions, cardiovascular disease, and cancer prevention.
Notable features of my work are: (1) reliance on analytic strategies such as meta-analysis, simulation, decision analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis; (2) a balancing of methodological rigor the needs of medical professionals; and (3) dependence on interdisciplinary groups of experts.
This approach is best illustrated by the Stroke Prevention Patient Outcome Research Team (PORT), for which I served as principal investigator. Funded by the AHCPR, the PORT involved 35 investigators at 13 institutions. The Stroke PORT has been highly productive and has led to a stroke prevention project funded as a public/private partnership by the AHCPR and DuPont Pharma, the Managing Anticoagulation Services Trial (MAST). MAST is a practice improvement trial in 6 managed care organizations, focussing on optimizing anticoagulation for individuals with atrial fibrillation.
I serve as consultant in the general area of analytic strategies for clinical policy development, as well as for specific projects related to stroke (e.g., acute stroke treatment, management of atrial fibrillation, and use of carotid endarterectomy.) I have worked with AHCPR (now AHRQ), ACP, AHA, AAN, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NSA, WHO, and several pharmaceutical companies.
Key Words: clinical policy, disease management, stroke, decision analysis, clinical guidelines

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