The nootropic agent piracetam has been shown to improve learning and memory, and it may, by this means, facilitate recovery and rehabilitation after a stroke. We report the results of a pilot study exploring its effects in patients undergoing rehabilitation after acute cerebral infarction in the carotid artery territory. We compared piracetam and placebo, each given for 12 weeks, in a multicenter, double-blind, randomized trial of parallel-group design; testing was performed at baseline (6–9 weeks poststroke), weeks 5 and 12, and, in fewer patients, 12 weeks after termination of treatment. Standardized tests of activities of daily living (Barthel Index, Kuriansky Test), aphasia (Aachen Aphasia Test), and perception (Rivermead Perception Assessment Battery) were the primary efficacy variables. Of 158 patients, 137 (81 males, 56 females) were studied after treatment and 88 at 24-week follow-up. Thirty patients on piracetam (45%) and 37 on placebo (53%) were aphasic on entry. Both groups, including the subgroups with aphasia, were well matched at baseline for demographic data, stroke sequelae, type and severity of aphasia, and prognostic parameters. Multivariate analysis of Aachen Aphasia subtest scores showed a significant overall improvement relative to baseline in favor of piracetam (p = 0.02) at 12 weeks. This was not seen at 24 weeks when, however, fewer patients were available for evaluation so that we could neither confirm nor deny whether improvement was maintained after cessation of piracetam. We were unable to demonstrate an effect on tests of activities of daily living and could neither confirm nor exclude an effect on perceptual deficit. We have shown an improvement in aphasia in patients undergoing rehabilitation after a stroke after 12 weeks' treatment with piracetam that requires confirmation in further studies.
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