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1.  Heart rate monitoring on the stroke unit. What does heart beat tell about prognosis? An observational study 
BMC Neurology  2011;11:47.
Guidelines recommend maintaining the heart rate (HR) of acute stroke patients within physiological limits; data on the frequency and predictors of significant deviations from these limits are scarce.
Demographical data, stroke risk factors, NIH stroke scale score, lesion size and location, and ECG parameters were prospectively assessed in 256 patients with ischemic stroke. Patients were continuously monitored for at least 24 hours on a certified stroke unit. Tachycardia (HR ≥120 bpm) and bradycardia (HR <45 bpm) and cardiac rhythm (sinus rhythm or atrial fibrillation) were documented. We investigated the influence of risk factors on HR disturbances and their respective influence on dependence (modified Rankin Scale ≥ 3 after three months) and mortality.
HR ≥120 bpm occurred in 39 patients (15%). Stroke severity (larger lesion size/higher NIHSS-score on admission), atrial fibrillation and HR on admission predicted its occurrence. HR <45 bpm occurred in 12 patients (5%) and was predicted by lower HR on admission. Neither HR ≥120 nor HR <45 bpm independently predicted poor outcome at three moths. Stroke location had no effect on the occurrence of HR violations. Clinical severity and age remained the only consistent predictors of poor outcome.
Significant tachycardia and bradycardia are frequent phenomena in acute stroke; however they do not independently predict clinical course or outcome. Continuous monitoring allows detecting rhythm disturbances in stroke patients and allows deciding whether urgent medical treatment is necessary.
PMCID: PMC3096901  PMID: 21524295
2.  Cortical swallowing processing in early subacute stroke 
BMC Neurology  2011;11:34.
Dysphagia is a major complication in hemispheric as well as brainstem stroke patients causing aspiration pneumonia and increased mortality. Little is known about the recovery from dysphagia after stroke. The aim of the present study was to determine the different patterns of cortical swallowing processing in patients with hemispheric and brainstem stroke with and without dysphagia in the early subacute phase.
We measured brain activity by mean of whole-head MEG in 37 patients with different stroke localisation 8.2 +/- 4.8 days after stroke to study changes in cortical activation during self-paced swallowing. An age matched group of healthy subjects served as controls. Data were analyzed by means of synthetic aperture magnetometry and group analyses were performed using a permutation test.
Our results demonstrate strong bilateral reduction of cortical swallowing activation in dysphagic patients with hemispheric stroke. In hemispheric stroke without dysphagia, bilateral activation was found. In the small group of patients with brainstem stroke we observed a reduction of cortical activation and a right hemispheric lateralization.
Bulbar central pattern generators coordinate the pharyngeal swallowing phase. The observed right hemispheric lateralization in brainstem stroke can therefore be interpreted as acute cortical compensation of subcortically caused dysphagia. The reduction of activation in brainstem stroke patients and dysphagic patients with cortical stroke could be explained in terms of diaschisis.
PMCID: PMC3061896  PMID: 21392404
3.  Do nasogastric tubes worsen dysphagia in patients with acute stroke? 
BMC Neurology  2008;8:28.
Early feeding via a nasogastric tube (NGT) is recommended as safe way of supplying nutrition in patients with acute dysphagic stroke. However, preliminary evidence suggests that NGTs themselves may interfere with swallowing physiology. In the present study we therefore investigated the impact of NGTs on swallowing function in acute stroke patients.
In the first part of the study the incidence and consequences of pharyngeal misplacement of NGTs were examined in 100 stroke patients by fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES). In the second part, the effect of correctly placed NGTs on swallowing function was evaluated by serially examining 25 individual patients with and without a NGT in place.
A correctly placed NGT did not cause a worsening of stroke-related dysphagia. Except for two cases, in which swallowing material got stuck to the NGT and penetrated into the laryngeal vestibule after the swallow, no changes of the amount of penetration and aspiration were noted with the NGT in place as compared to the no-tube condition. Pharyngeal misplacement of the NGT was identified in 5 of 100 patients. All these patients showed worsening of dysphagia caused by the malpositioned NGT with an increase of pre-, intra-, and postdeglutitive penetration.
Based on these findings, there are no principle obstacles to start limited and supervised oral feeding in stroke patients with a NGT in place.
PMCID: PMC2507716  PMID: 18651972
4.  Cortical recovery of swallowing function in wound botulism 
BMC Neurology  2008;8:13.
Botulism is a rare disease caused by intoxication leading to muscle weakness and rapidly progressive dysphagia. With adequate therapy signs of recovery can be observed within several days. In the last few years, brain imaging studies carried out in healthy subjects showed activation of the sensorimotor cortex and the insula during volitional swallowing. However, little is known about cortical changes and compensation mechanisms accompanying swallowing pathology.
In this study, we applied whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) in order to study changes in cortical activation in a 27-year-old patient suffering from wound botulism during recovery from dysphagia. An age-matched group of healthy subjects served as control group. A self-paced swallowing paradigm was performed and data were analyzed using synthetic aperture magnetometry (SAM).
The first MEG measurement, carried out when the patient still demonstrated severe dysphagia, revealed strongly decreased activation of the somatosensory cortex but a strong activation of the right insula and marked recruitment of the left posterior parietal cortex (PPC). In the second measurement performed five days later after clinical recovery from dysphagia we found a decreased activation in these two areas and a bilateral cortical activation of the primary and secondary sensorimotor cortex comparable to the results seen in a healthy control group.
These findings indicate parallel development to normalization of swallowing related cortical activation and clinical recovery from dysphagia and highlight the importance of the insula and the PPC for the central coordination of swallowing. The results suggest that MEG examination of swallowing can reflect short-term changes in patients suffering from neurogenic dysphagia.
PMCID: PMC2409368  PMID: 18462489

Results 1-4 (4)