Complex speech-language therapy interventions for stroke-related aphasia: the RELEASE study incorporating a systematic review and individual participant data network meta-analysis

Marian C Brady, Myzoon Ali, Kathryn Vandenberg, Linda J Williams, Louise R Williams, Masahiro Abo, Frank Becker, Audrey Bowen, Caitlin Brandenburg, Caterina Breitenstein, Stefanie Bruehl, David A Copland, Tamara B Cranfill, Marie Di pietro-Bachmann, Pamela Enderby, Joanne Fillingham, Federica Lucia Galli, Marialuisa Gandolfi, Bertrand Glize, Erin GodeckeNeil Hawkins, Katerina Hilari, Jacqueline Hinckley, Simon Horton, David Howard, Petra Jaecks, Elizabeth Jefferies, Luis Mt Jesus, Maria Kambanaros, Eun Kyoung Kang, Eman M Khedr, Anthony Pak-hin Kong, Tarja Kukkonen, Marina Laganaro, Matthew A Lambon ralph, Ann Charlotte Laska, Béatrice Leemann, Alexander P Leff, Roxele R Lima, Antje Lorenz, Brian Macwhinney, Rebecca Shisler marshall, Flavia Mattioli, İlknur Maviş, Marcus Meinzer, Reza Nilipour, Enrique Noé, Nam-jong Paik, Rebecca Palmer, Ilias Papathanasiou, Brígida F Patrício, Isabel Pavão Martins, Cathy Price, Tatjana Prizl Jakovac, Elizabeth Rochon, Miranda L Rose, Charlotte Rosso, Ilona Rubi-Fessen, Marina B Ruiter, Claerwen Snell, Benjamin Stahl, Jerzy P Szaflarski, Shirley A Thomas, Mieke Van de sandt-Koenderman, Ineke Van der meulen, Evy Visch-Brink, Linda Worrall, Heather Harris Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People with language problems following stroke (aphasia) benefit from speech and language therapy. Optimising speech and language therapy for aphasia recovery is a research priority.

The objectives were to explore patterns and predictors of language and communication recovery, optimum speech and language therapy intervention provision, and whether or not effectiveness varies by participant subgroup or language domain.

This research comprised a systematic review, a meta-analysis and a network meta-analysis of individual participant data.

Participant data were collected in research and clinical settings.

The intervention under investigation was speech and language therapy for aphasia after stroke.

Main outcome measures
The main outcome measures were absolute changes in language scores from baseline on overall language ability, auditory comprehension, spoken language, reading comprehension, writing and functional communication.

Data sources and participants
Electronic databases were systematically searched, including MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Linguistic and Language Behavior Abstracts and SpeechBITE (searched from inception to 2015). The results were screened for eligibility, and published and unpublished data sets (randomised controlled trials, non-randomised controlled trials, cohort studies, case series, registries) with at least 10 individual participant data reporting aphasia duration and severity were identified. Existing collaborators and primary researchers named in identified records were invited to contribute electronic data sets. Individual participant data in the public domain were extracted.

Review methods
Data on demographics, speech and language therapy interventions, outcomes and quality criteria were independently extracted by two reviewers, or available as individual participant data data sets. Meta-analysis and network meta-analysis were used to generate hypotheses.

We retrieved 5928 individual participant data from 174 data sets across 28 countries, comprising 75 electronic (3940 individual participant data), 47 randomised controlled trial (1778 individual participant data) and 91 speech and language therapy intervention (2746 individual participant data) data sets. The median participant age was 63 years (interquartile range 53–72 years). We identified 53 unavailable, but potentially eligible, randomised controlled trials (46 of these appeared to include speech and language therapy). Relevant individual participant data were filtered into each analysis. Statistically significant predictors of recovery included age (functional communication, individual participant data: 532, n = 14 randomised controlled trials) and sex (overall language ability, individual participant data: 482, n = 11 randomised controlled trials; functional communication, individual participant data: 532, n = 14 randomised controlled trials). Older age and being a longer time since aphasia onset predicted poorer recovery. A negative relationship between baseline severity score and change from baseline (p 
Data sets were graded as being at a low risk of bias but were predominantly based on highly selected research participants, assessments and interventions, thereby limiting generalisability.

Frequency, intensity and dosage were associated with language gains from baseline, but varied by domain and subgroup.

Future work
These exploratory findings require confirmatory study designs to test the hypotheses generated and to develop more tailored speech and language therapy interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-272
JournalHealth and Social Care Delivery Research
Issue number28
Early online date1 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022


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