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Published date: 28 February 2018

Published in the journal BMJ Open, a new study sheds light on whether a community-based rehabilitation training programme could help stroke survivors regain their independence after stroke.

The programme, called ReTrain, is based on key principles of the Action for Rehabilitation from Neurological Injury (ARNI) therapeutic approach. It involves the development of a bespoke training regime for each stroke survivor with the aim of improving their functional mobility to promote and support self-reliance.

Funded by the Stroke Association, the study investigated whether a ReTrain training programme was acceptable for participants to take part in, safe to run and whether a larger study was feasible. It involved 48 volunteers who were randomly assigned to either a ReTrain training programme group, or a control group who received an advice booklet about exercise after stroke only. 

Studies like this are known as pilot-studies and are a crucial step in translating research into clinical practice. They help calculate how many participants will be needed for a larger study to investigate the actual effectiveness of a new intervention or treatment, and to identify any barriers such as challenges in recruiting participants, how to measure outcomes in a larger trial, and the potential cost effectiveness of new interventions and treatments.

Principal investigator, Dr Sarah Dean, University of Exeter, said:

“We’ve used some of ARNI’s functional techniques, including teaching people to get up off the floor without holding on to any furniture, equipment or another person. This gives people a sense of independence and confidence because if they fall over when they're on their own, they can get themselves up again.

“We interviewed a number of people in the study who said they found it hard work, but overall were very positive. We’d now like to run a big trial of 400-500 people to fairly test whether ReTrain makes a difference to the lives of stroke survivors.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do the pilot study if we hadn’t had the Stroke Association funding. They’ve been helpful and really supportive. Stroke has such a huge impact on people's lives, so it’s vital that we invest in research across the care pathway, including prevention, acute care and rehabilitation to help people to recover.”