Objective: To investigate short- and long-term effects of intensive rehabilitation on ataxia, gait, and activities of daily living (ADLs) in patients with degenerative cerebellar disease.
Methods: A total of 42 patients with pure cerebellar degeneration were randomly assigned to the immediate group or the delayed-entry control group. The immediate group received 2 hours of inpatient physical and occupational therapy, focusing on coordination, balance, and ADLs, on weekdays and 1 hour on weekends for 4 weeks. The control group received the same intervention after a 4-week delay. Short-term outcome was compared between the immediate and control groups. Long-term evaluation was done in both groups at 4, 12, and 24 weeks after the intervention. Outcome measures included the assessment and rating of ataxia, Functional Independence Measure, gait speed, cadence, functional ambulation category, and number of falls.
Results: The immediate group showed significantly greater functional gains in ataxia, gait speed, and ADLs than the control group. Improvement of truncal ataxia was more prominent than limb ataxia. The gains in ataxia and gait were sustained at 12 weeks and 24 weeks, respectively. At least 1 measure was better than at baseline at 24 weeks in 22 patients.
Conclusions: Short-term benefit of intensive rehabilitation was evident in patients with degenerative cerebellar diseases. Although functional status tended to decline to the baseline level within 24 weeks, gains were maintained in more than half of the participants.