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Friday 6th October 2017

Research to improve speech rehab for stroke patients


Tauranga Hospital is one of two New Zealand hospitals taking part in one of the largest Australasian clinical trials designed to improve language rehabilitation for people recovering from stroke.

The Very Early Rehabilitation in Speech (VERSE) study seeks to better understand the best way of treating people having difficulty with speech and language (aphasia) after having a stroke.

"The trial focuses on recruiting patients within the first 14 days following a stroke," said Speech-Language Therapist Dr Meghann Grawburg, who is leading the research at Tauranga Hospital. "We are interested to find out what kind of therapy and how much therapy is needed for best recovery in the early days after a stroke."

Patients will be randomly assigned to one of three different speech therapy treatment programmes of various levels of intensity. Over the course of a month they'll go through speech therapy exercises up to five hours a week.

A team of 11 speech therapists at Tauranga Hospital is involved in the trial which will continue through to December.

"We aim to have at least 10 Bay of Plenty patients on the trial. As well as language loss, the selection criteria involves the patient having a certain level of alertness, which in the early days after a stroke isn't always that common," said Dr Grawburg.

Christchurch Hospital is also taking part in the trial along with 16 hospitals across Australia. The VERSE Trial based at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia aims to have 246 stroke patients participate in the trial.


Factbox 1

Stroke is the third largest killer in New Zealand (about 2500 people every year). Around 10 percent of stroke deaths occur in people under 65.

Every day about 24 New Zealanders have a stroke. A quarter occur in people under 65.

High blood pressure is a major cause of strokes. One in five New Zealanders has high blood pressure, and a third of these don't know it. Reducing your blood pressure can greatly reduce stroke risk.

Factbox 2

What are the signs of stroke?

The signs and symptoms of stroke usually come on suddenly. The type of signs experienced will depend on what area of the brain is affected.

Common first signs of stroke include:

  • Sudden weakness and/or numbness of face, arm and/or leg especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden blurred or loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying.
  • Sudden loss of balance or an unexplained fall or difficulty controlling movements, especially with any of the other signs.


Speech-Therapy-Team
Photo caption: Part of the Tauranga Hospital Speech Therapy team involved in one of the largest stroke speech therapy trials in Australasia. Left to right: April Mora (Student), Speech Language Therapists:  Gwen Lake, Meghann Grawburg, Natalie Oakley, Helen Liddall, with Fiona Hewerdine (Speech Language Team Leader).  

 

For more information:

James Fuller
Communications Advisor
Bay of Plenty District Health Board
027 839 1791 

Last updated: October 9, 2017