A modified national institutes of health stroke scale for use in stroke clinical trials preliminary reliability and validity

Patrick D. Lyden, Mei Lu, Steven R. Levine, Thomas G. Brott, Joseph Broderick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose - The National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) is accepted widely for measuring acute stroke deficits in clinical trials, but it contains items that exhibit poor reliability or do not contribute meaningful information. To improve the scale for use in clinical research, we used formal clinimetric analyses to derive a modified version, the mNIHSS. We then sought to demonstrate the validity and reliability of the new mNIHSS. Methods - The mNIHSS was derived from our prior clinimetric studies of the NIHSS by deleting poorly reproducible or redundant items (level of consciousness, face weakness, ataxia, dysarthria) and collapsing the sensory item into 2 responses. Reliability of the mNIHSS was assessed with the certification data originally collected to assess the reliability of investigators in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) rtPA (recombinant tissue plasminogen activator) Stroke Trial. Validity of the mNIHSS was assessed with the outcome results of the NINDS rtPA Stroke Trial. Results - Reliability was improved with the mNIHSS: the number of scale items with poor κ coefficients on either of the certification tapes decreased from 8 (20%) to 3 (14%) with the mNIHSS. With the use of factor analysis, the structure underlying the mNIHSS was found identical to the original scale. On serial use of the scale, goodness of fit coefficients were higher with the mNIHSS. With data from part I of the trial data, the proportion of patients who improved ≥4 points within 24 hours after treatment was statistically significantly increased by tPA (odds ratio, 1.3; 95% confidence limits, 1.0, 1.8; P=0.05). Likewise, the odds ratio for complete/nearly complete resolution of stroke symptoms 3 months after treatment was 1.7 (95% confidence limits, 1.2, 2.6) with the mNIHSS. Other outcomes showed the same agreement when the mNIHSS was compared with the original scale. The mNIHSS showed good responsiveness, ie, was useful in differentiating patients likely to hemorrhage or have a good outcome after stroke. Conclusions - The mNIHSS appears to be identical clinimetrically to the original NIHSS when the same data are used for validation and reliability. Power appears to be greater with the mNIHSS with the use of 24-hour end points, suggesting the need for fewer patients in trials designed to detect treatment effects comparable to rtPA. The mNIHSS contains fewer items and might be simpler to use in clinical research trials. Prospective analysis of reliability and validity, with the use of an independently collected cohort, must be obtained before the mNIHSS is used in a research setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1310-1316
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001


  • Outcome
  • Outcome assessment
  • Stroke
  • Stroke assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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