Background: The recovery of independence in activities of daily living is a fundamental goal of rehabilitation programs in subjects affected by subacute stroke. Rehabilitation is focused both on motor and cognitive aspects, and some evidence has reported cognitive deficits as prognostic factors of motor recovery. However, rehabilitation is a dynamic process during which executive functions and motor functions should be improved. Aim: The aim of the study is to evaluate the relationships between impairments in cognitive functions and recovery of functional independence in stroke patients during the subacute phase. Design: Multicenter observational study. Setting: Intensive rehabilitation units. Population: A sample of 319 stroke patients in subacute phase (70.6±11.6 years, 40.4% females), consecutively admitted from November 2019 to July 2021 at sixteen rehabilitation centers were enrolled in this observational, prospective and multicentric study with longitudinal assessments. Methods: Cognitive and functional assessments were performed at hospital admission and discharge, including Oxford Cognitive Screen, modified Barthel Index, Functional Independent Measure, Fugl-Meyer assessment scale and National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale. Results: A regression analysis identified five predictors (out of about 200 tested variables) of functional recovery related to four aspects assessed at admission: functional status (P<0.001), lower limb functioning (P=0.002), attention (P=0.011), and executive functions (P=0.017). Furthermore, patients who recovered deficits in executive functions had the same recovery of those without deficits, whereas those who maintained deficits had a smaller recovery (P=0.019). Conclusions: The relationship between cognitive and motor deficits is increasingly highlighted and the recovery of executive functions deficits seems to contribute to motor recovery. Clinical rehabilitation impact: Our results suggest that the recovery of executive functions may promote the recovery of the functional outcome of the patient with subacute stroke. Future treatment protocols may benefit from paying more attention to the recovery of executive functions.
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