Background: Recent review of the available evidence on interventions for motor recovery after stroke, showed that improvements in recovery of arm function were seen for constraint-induced movement therapy, electromyographic biofeedback, mental practice with motor imagery, and robotics. Similar improvement in transfer ability or balance were seen with repetitive task training, biofeedback, and training with a moving platform. Walking speed was improved by physical fitness training, high-intensity physiotherapy and repetitive task training. However, most of these trials were small and had design limitations.
Material/methods: In this article, randomized control trials (RCT's) published in 2009 of rehabilitation therapies for acute (≤ 2 weeks), sub-acute (2 to 12 weeks) and chronic (≥ 12 weeks) stroke was reviewed. A Medline search was performed to identify all RCT's in stroke rehabilitation in the year 2009. The search strategy that was used for PubMed is presented in the Appendix 1. The objective was to examine the effectiveness of these treatment modalities in stroke rehabilitation.
Results: This generated 35 RCT's under 5 categories which were found and analyzed. The methodological quality was assessed by using the PEDro scale for external and internal validity.
Conclusions: These trials were primarily efficacy studies. Most of these studies enrolled small numbers of patient which precluded their clinical applicability (limited external validity). However, the constraint induced movement therapy (CIT), regularly used in chronic stroke patients did not improve affected arm-hand function when used in acute stroke patients at ≤ 4 weeks. Intensive CIT did not lead to motor improvement in arm-hand function. Robotic arm treatment helped decrease motor impairment and improved function in chronic stroke patients only. Therapist provided exercise programs (when self-administered by patients during their off-therapy time in a rehabilitation setting) did improve arm-hand function. Tai Chi exercises helped improve balance and weight bearing. Exercise programs for community dwelling stroke patient helped maintain and even improve their functional state.