This study aimed to develop a sensitive index from transcranial Doppler (TCD) signals for quantitatively evaluating the effects of long-term external counterpulsation (ECP) treatment on stroke rehabilitation. We recruited 27 patients with unilateral ischemic stroke and a good acoustic window within 7 days of stroke onset. 15 of them received 35 daily 1-hour ECP treatment (ECP group) and the others underwent conventional therapy without ECP treatment (No-ECP group). We monitored blood flow in middle cerebral arteries on both sides by TCD, and analyzed them via discrete wavelet analysis method. The overall changes of National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) and Barthel Index were assessed. A ‘big-wave’ phenomenon was observed in TCD signals of patients in ECP group after 35 days’ treatment, with significant fluctuation in frequency interval from 0.010 to 0.034 Hz as main feature. A new index, which was denoted as I, was derived from this phenomenon. The I was significantly higher for patients in ECP group than that for patients in No-ECP group after 35-days’ treatment (P <0.01). And the I was positively correlated with NIHSS change in ECP group (P<0.05). The new index could be used as an effective indicator for evaluating enhancement of endothelial metabolism and neurogenic activity after long-term ECP treatment.
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