Does neurorehabilitation have a role in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis?
- Cite this article as:
- Liu, C., Playford, E.D. & Thompson, A.J. J Neurol (2003) 250: 1214. doi:10.1007/s00415-003-0187-0
Patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RR MS) often make incomplete recovery from disabling exacerbations, despite corticosteroid treatment. Inpatient rehabilitation has been shown to be valuable in progressive MS, but its role in RR MS is less clear. We evaluated the effect of rehabilitation in consecutive patients with RR MS admitted to a neurological rehabilitation unit. Outcome measures applied on admission and discharge included the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS), the Barthel Index (BI) and the Functional Independence Measure (FIM), as well as a visual analogue scale (VAS) of the patients’ perception of rehabilitation impact. Confounding factors including the timing of steroid therapy and re-admissions were also examined. RR patients showed considerable improvement following rehabilitation, with a median change of –0.5 on EDSS, +4 on BI and +12 on FIM (mean change of –0.8 EDSS, +4.5 BI and +15.6 FIM points; effect sizes of –1.01, 0.97 and 0.86, respectively), which was significantly greater than other MS subtypes. RR patients rated their admissions highly (median VAS 8.9, interquartile range 7.5–9.9), and the VAS scores correlated modestly with disability measures (Spearman’s rho = –0.42, 0.31 and 0.24 versus EDSS, BI and FIM, respectively; p = 0.007–0.040). Repeat admissions and the timing of steroid treatment did not have a significant effect on outcome. This suggests that inpatient rehabilitation is useful in RR MS, particularly in patients with incomplete recovery from relapses who have accumulated moderate to severe disability.