What do randomized controlled trials say about virtual rehabilitation in stroke?

A systematic literature review and meta-analysis of upper-limb and cognitive outcomes

Anna Aminov, Jeffrey Rogers, Sandy Middleton, Karen Caeyenberghs, Peter H. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

40 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Virtual-reality based rehabilitation (VR) shows potential as an engaging and effective way to improve upper-limb function and cognitive abilities following a stroke. However, an updated synthesis of the literature is needed to capture growth in recent research and address gaps in our understanding of factors that may optimize training parameters and treatment effects.

Methods: Published randomized controlled trials comparing VR to conventional therapy were retrieved from seven electronic databases. Treatment effects (Hedge's g) were estimated using a random effects model, with motor and functional outcomes between different protocols compared at the Body Structure/Function, Activity, and Participation levels of the International Classification of Functioning.

Results: Thirty-three studies were identified, including 971 participants (492 VR participants). VR produced small to medium overall effects (g = 0.46; 95% CI: 0.33-0.59, p < 0.01), above and beyond conventional therapies. Small to medium effects were observed on Body Structure/Function (g = 0.41; 95% CI: 0.28-0.55; p < 0.01) and Activity outcomes (g = 0.47; 95% CI: 0.34-0.60, p < 0.01), while Participation outcomes failed to reach significance (g = 0.38; 95% CI: -0.29-1.04, p = 0.27). Superior benefits for Body Structure/Function (g = 0.56) and Activity outcomes (g = 0.62) were observed when examining outcomes only from purpose-designed VR systems. Preliminary results (k = 4) suggested small to medium effects for cognitive outcomes (g = 0.41; 95% CI: 0.28-0.55; p < 0.01). Moderator analysis found no advantage for higher doses of VR, massed practice training schedules, or greater time since injury.

Conclusion: VR can effect significant gains on Body Structure/Function and Activity level outcomes, including improvements in cognitive function, for individuals who have sustained a stroke. The evidence supports the use of VR as an adjunct for stroke rehabilitation, with effectiveness evident for a variety of platforms, training parameters, and stages of recovery.
Original languageEnglish
Article number29
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Volume15
Issue number1
Early online date2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • cognition
  • meta-analysis
  • motor performance
  • rehabilitation
  • stroke
  • virtual reality
  • Stroke
  • Virtual reality
  • Cognition
  • Motor performance
  • Rehabilitation
  • Meta-analysis

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