Objective: To examine the relationship between patient-rated physician empathy and outcome of botulinum toxin treatment for post-stroke upper limb spasticity.
Design: Cohort study.
Subjects: Twenty chronic stroke patients with upper limb spasticity.
Methods: All patients received incobotulinumtoxinA injection in at least one muscle for each of the following patterns: flexed elbow, flexed wrist and clenched fist. Each treatment was performed by 1 of 5 physiatrists with equivalent clinical experience. Patient-rated physician empathy was quantified with the Consultation and Relational Empathy Measure immediately after botulinum toxin treatment. Patients were evaluated before and at 4 weeks after botulinum toxin treatment by means of the following outcome measures: Modified Ashworth Scale; Wolf Motor Function Test; Disability Assessment Scale; Goal Attainment Scaling.
Results: Ordinal regression analysis showed a significant influence of patient-rated physician empathy (independent variable) on the outcome (dependent variables) of botulinum toxin treatment at 4 weeks after injection, as measured by Goal Attainment Scaling (p < 0.001).
Conclusion: These findings support the hypothesis that patient-rated physician empathy may influence the outcome of botulinum toxin treatment in chronic stroke patients with upper limb spasticity as measured by Goal Attainment Scaling.
Stroke is a leading cause of adult disability (1, 2). Damage to the descending tracts and sensory-motor networks results in the positive and negative signs of the upper motor neurone syndrome (UMNS) (1–3). The upper limb is commonly involved after stroke, with up to 69% of patients having arm weakness on admission to hospital (4). Recovery of upper limb function has been found to correlate with the degree of initial paresis and its topical distribution according to the cortico-motoneuronal representation of arm movements (5–9).
Spasticity is a main feature of UMNS. It is defined as a state of increased muscle tone with exaggerated reflexes characterized by a velocity-dependent increase in resistance to passive movement (10). Upper limb spasticity has been found to be associated with reduced arm function, low levels of independence and high burden of direct care costs during the first year post-stroke (11). It affects nearly half of patients with initial impaired arm function, with a prevalence varying from 17% to 38% of all patients at one year post-stroke (11). Up to 13% of patients with stroke need some form of spasticity treatment (drug therapy, physical therapy or other rehabilitation approaches) within 6–12 months post-onset (11, 12). Botulinum toxin type A (BoNT-A) has been proven safe and effective for reducing upper limb spasticity and improving arm passive function in adult patients (13, 14). While current literature reports highly patient-specific potential gains in function after BoNT-A treatment, there is inadequate evidence to determine the efficacy of BoNT-A in improving active function associated with adult upper limb spasticity (13).
Empathy refers to the ability to understand and share the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another person (15). It is an essential component of the physician-patient relationship and a key dimension of patient-centred care (15, 16). This is even more important in rehabilitation medicine, where persons with disabilities often report encountering attitudinal and environmental barriers when trying to obtain rehabilitative care and express the need for better communication with their healthcare providers (17).
To the best of our knowledge, no previous research has investigated the influence of physician empathy on patient outcome after spasticity treatment. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between patient-rated physician empathy and clinical outcome of BoNT-A treatment for upper limb spasticity due to chronic stroke. […]
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