BACKGROUND: Patients suffering from stroke in the acute/post-acute phases often present with depressive mood - which negatively impacts on patients' prognosis. However, psychometric evaluation of mood in acute stroke patients may be challenging due to cognitive deficits. Tools investigating emotional states via a vertical analogue line may overcome language/visuo-spatial disorders. This study thus aimed at (a) investigating the clinical usability of a Visual Analogue Mood Scale (VAMS) in acute stroke patients and (b) investigating the interplay between mood and cognition in this population.
METHODS: Forty-one acute stroke patients were compared to 41 age-, education- and sex-matched healthy participants (HPs) on the VAMS and on cognitive measures (mental performance in acute stroke, MEPS). A control line bisection (LB) task was administered to control for potential visuo-spatial deficits in patients.
RESULTS: Patients reported higher depression levels than HPs (lower VAMS scores); this between-group difference stayed significant when covarying for LB scores. MEPS scores discriminated patients from HPs; among cognitive measures, only the Clock drawing test (CDT) was positively associated with VAMS scores. Lesion side did not affect patients' mood state; however, disease duration was inversely related to VAMS scores.
DISCUSSION: The VAMS proved to be a suitable tool for assessing mood in acute stroke patients, as being independent from post-stroke cognitive sequelae. The CDT might represent an adequate measure of depression-induced, post-stroke cognitive efficiency decrease. Mood disorders might occur and thus should be adequately addressed also in post-acute phases - likely due to longer hospitalization times and regression of anosognosic features.