Andrew Kertesz MD & Professor Emeritus, Department of Clinical Neurology, University of Western Ontario (Canada), and creator of the Western Aphasia Battery (WAB), has published an article reviewing the applications of this standardized, impairment-level aphasia assessment instrument. The goals of the review were to: (1) determine the scope of the WAB’s clinical and research usages; (2) determine the goals of those applications; and (3) characterize how WAB uses have evolved since its introduction in 1974.

To find articles for inclusion in this review, the author searched major publication databases, including the National Library of Medicine database (Pub Med) and the Cochrane database, for ones that mentioned WAB in their abstracts or titles, and he also flagged articles that used terms such as ‘stroke aphasia’, ‘primary progressive aphasia’, ‘aphasia tests’, and ‘fronto-temproal dementia’ for review inclusion. The scope encompassed all major areas of use – i.e., aphasia definition, treatment, recovery, neuroimaging, etc. He then summarized the relevant articles, conducted content analyses, and systematized the results for reporting by key topic areas.

Findings show that the WAB is one of the most widely used instruments across domains of aphasia activity. Both researchers and clinicians find it to be practical, straightforward to administer, usefully structured, and of good breadth and depth. It has been psychometrically characterized and documented as valid, reliable, and informatively sensitive to change. It covers key competency areas relevant to aphasia categorization, assigns its recipients to aphasia diagnostic categories, and – in its calculated Aphasia Quotient – provides a convenient overall metric of severity of aphasia involvement. Over time, as technologies have matured to provide ever higher-quality neuroimaging capabilities, the WAB has also been found to hold promise in brain-behavior research.

As with all instruments, the WAB has limitations. Kertesz notes some of these in his summary, such as variability of interrater reliability in assessing spontaneous speech. Also, as recent studies have shown, comprehensive aphasia rehabilitation involves engagement with issues beyond impairments, requiring attention also to such issues as personality, psychology, support networks, living environment, and more that is unaddressed in the WAB.

For further reading: A. Kertesz, 2020, The Western Aphasia Battery: A systematic review of research and clinical applications.  Aphasiology, 34(12).  https://doi.org/10.1080/02687038.2020.1852002

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