Relaxin key to improved stroke rehabilitation outcomes

By Helen Albert

Treatment with the reproductive hormone relaxin (RLX) during physical rehabilitative therapy appears to improve long-term outcomes in stroke patients over rehabilitative therapy alone, say researchers.

"Considering the present clinical results and our previous experimental studies, we believe that RLX is a very important, if not the most important, cardiovascular hormone," study author Mario Bigazzi (Prosperius Institute, Florence, Italy), who presented the results at the Endocrinology Society's annual meeting ENDO 2012 in Houston, Texas, USA, told the press.

"We believe that the presence of RLX in women's blood at each ovulation represents the still-undiscovered factor protecting them from cardiovascular diseases during the fertile span of life until the menopause. This may assure their well-known longer survival time than men," he added.

Bigazzi and team enrolled 36 patients aged 64‑79 years who had been admitted to a stroke rehabilitation unit in Italy to take part in their study. The patients were randomly assigned to receive standard poststroke physical rehabilitation plus porcine RLX 40 mg/day (n=18) or physical rehabilitation alone (n=18).

The patients were followed up 20 and 40 days after beginning rehabilitation. There were no physical differences between the groups at 20 days, according to the Functional Independent Measure for daily activity. However, at 40 days the patients in the RLX group achieved a significantly higher score than those in the rehabilitation alone group, at 96 versus 75.

Cognitive function, as assessed by the Trail Making Test, was significantly better in the relaxin compared with the rehabilitation alone group both at 20 (3.5 vs 2.0) and 40 days (4.0 vs 2.0).

Global function, defined according to the modified Rankin Scale, was also significantly improved in the RLX versus the rehabilitation alone group at both 20 and 40 days (2.5 vs 3.0 and 2.0 vs 3.0, respectively).

Discussing the findings, Bigazzi conceded that larger studies are needed, but concluded: "We anticipate that, in the near future RLX, will represent an essential tool in the therapy and primary and secondary prevention of ischemic cardiovascular disease."

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