Stroke survivors commonly experience difficulties with various aspects of thinking, planning and remembering, as well as seeing and speaking. These are often less obvious than physical problems, but are important to identify early after stroke in order to help guide rehabilitation and other treatment services.

In this study we randomly allocated 821 stroke survivors to one of two groups shortly after their stroke: one group received a cognitive assessment (Oxford Cognitive Screen) that assesses specific problems a patient may have after stroke, or another group that received a broader measure that assesses overall thinking performance (Montreal Cognitive Assessment). We then followed-up with them 6 months later to find out how they were recovering from their stroke. We collected data using a broad stroke severity measure that assesses a variety of abilities, such as the use of both arms and legs, etc. We also asked the patient to fill out a questionnaire regarding their own physical abilities, mood, communication, activities of daily life, participation in daily living, etc.

The aim of the study was to investigate whether the information provided by a cognitive screen regarding the specific cognitive problems experienced by the patient after stroke would lead to improved outcomes 6 months later. We found that the use of a cognitive screen right after stroke did not affect overall stroke recovery. We also found the cognitive screens to be in accordance with one another, in that people who struggle with one are also likely to struggle with the other. Despite not finding differences between patient outcomes between the two groups at follow-up, we did find that in the group that received the more specific cognitive screen after stroke, a higher proportion of people showed improvements than in the broad screening group. We believe this is because some of the stroke specific problems are recovering well over time. Further research into understanding what makes a person more likely to regain particular abilities is needed.