A commonly used treatment for cerebral palsy in children is so-called 'conventional therapy', which includes physiotherapy or the neurodevelopmental approach. Although more intensive rehabilitative treatment is thought to be more effective than less intensive interventions, this assumption has not been proven. In this study we compared the efficacy of intensive versus nonintensive rehabilitative treatment in children with cerebral palsy. A meta-analysis of the studies published between January 1996 and July 2007 was performed.
Inclusion criteria: infants/children/adolescents (1-18 years old); randomized controlled trials using, as outcome measure, the Gross Motor Function Measure score.
Exclusion criteria: studies that included therapies not generally used in 'so-called' conventional treatment (i.e. constraint, taping). Treatment effects were combined using the weighted mean difference method. Fixed and random effect meta-analyses were carried out and results were compared. Heterogeneity was also assessed. Funnel plots were examined and the presence of small-study effects was tested. Intensive therapy tended to have a greater effect than nonintensive therapy (1.32; 95% confidence interval: 0.55-2.10). The effect of intensive treatment tended to be apparently stronger for children 2 years of age. Our meta-analysis shows that, in children with cerebral palsy, intensive conventional therapy may improve the functional motor outcome, but the effect size seems to be modest.