Objectives: To address the lack of synthesis regarding the factors, processes, and outcomes specific to the transition from child-centered to adult-centered health care for people with cerebral palsy (CP) and spina bifida (SB); more specifically, to identify barriers, to outline key elements, to review empirical studies, and to make clinical and research recommendations.
Data sources: We searched Medline and CINAHL databases from 1990 to 2006 using the key words: transition, health care transition, pediatric health care, adult health care, health care access, health care use, chronic illness, special health care needs, and physical disability. The resulting studies were reviewed with a specific focus on clinical transition for persons with CP and SB, and were supplemented with key information from other diagnostic groups.
Study selection: All studies meeting the inclusion criteria were included.
Data extraction: Each article classified according to 5 criteria: methodology, diagnostic group, country of study, age group, and sample size.
Data synthesis: We identified 149 articles: 54 discussion, 21 case series, 28 database or register, 25 qualitative, and 34 survey articles (some included multiple methods). We identified 5 key elements that support a positive transition to adult-centered health care: preparation, flexible timing, care coordination, transition clinic visits, and interested adult-centered health care providers. There was, however, limited empirical evidence to support the impact of these elements.
Conclusions: This review summarizes key factors that must be considered to support this critical clinical transition and sets the foundation for future research. It is time to apply prospective study designs to evaluate transition interventions and determine long-term health outcomes.