Jessica Barth, MS, OTR/L, CBIS, is the first occupational therapist in the country to receive a research fellowship from the National Institutes of Health Regional Stroke Trial Networks—Stroke Net. Barth, a research OT with MedStar NRH, is conducting her research under the auspices of the Stroke National Capital Area Network for Research (SCANR)—the regional collaboration between MedStar NRH and MedStar Washington Hospital Center that is one of just 25 NIH Stroke Networks in the nation.
The National Institute for Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS) project is focused on fostering clinical trials to test new ways to treat acute stroke, prevent a second stroke, and help people recover more fully following a stroke. Barth is one of nearly 90 recipients of Stroke Net fellowships since its inception in 2013, and of just 29 recipients for 2016-17. She joins a rich educational program in the D.C. region that includes five fellowship programs and two adult neurology residencies among SCANR’s five affiliated institutions. The grant is allowing Barth to devote her energies full time to research. “I had previously spent half of my time in clinical responsibilities,” she explains. “Now as a fellow I can design and execute my own research study.” Upper Extremity Recovery Barth’s investigation focuses on upper extremity recovery following stroke. The research study is examining the relationship between movement of the arm during the early post-stroke period and the patient’s perception of arm function later during recovery. “There hasn’t been much research conducted in the first week after stroke,” Barth explains. “We want to better understand how to correlate early movement to later function—and try to identify which functional measurements immediately following stroke are the best predictors for recovery.” Patient recruitment has begun in conjunction with MedStar Washington Hospital Center—a Primary Stroke Center that treats more than 1,200 stroke patients annually.
During the course of a single year, Barth hopes to recruit 100 patients for the study. Baseline Assessments, Patient Perception Barth will conduct baseline assessments of patients during the first week following stroke using a series of standard clinical measures, as well as accelerometry and goniometry. “Goniometry measures joint movement, while accelerometry measures rotation, direction and force of spontaneous movement,” Barth explains. Spontaneous movement will be tracked with the ActiGraph, a watch-like device worn on the wrist, which patients will wear for between 24 and 72 hours during the first days in acute care. Thirty-days following their strokes, patients will be interviewed to determine their perception of arm function. Local patients will also undergo clinical assessment at the hospital. “We think we will be able to identify those measures that are the best predictors of function at 30 days post stroke. This information could help clinicians streamline the assessment process and improve effectiveness and efficiency of care. It may also ultimately help clinicians better determine what type of rehabilitation services will produce optimal results for individual patients,” she adds. For more information about the study, email Jessica.Barth@MedStar.net.