A systematic review of interventions for children with cerebral palsy: state of the evidence

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2013 Oct;55(10):885-910. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.12246. Epub 2013 Aug 21.


Aim: The aim of this study was to describe systematically the best available intervention evidence for children with cerebral palsy (CP).

Method: This study was a systematic review of systematic reviews. The following databases were searched: CINAHL, Cochrane Library, DARE, EMBASE, Google Scholar MEDLINE, OTSeeker, PEDro, PsycBITE, PsycINFO, and speechBITE. Two independent reviewers determined whether studies met the inclusion criteria. These were that (1) the study was a systematic review or the next best available; (2) it was a medical/allied health intervention; and (3) that more than 25% of participants were children with CP. Interventions were coded using the Oxford Levels of Evidence; GRADE; Evidence Alert Traffic Light; and the International Classification of Function, Disability and Health.

Results: Overall, 166 articles met the inclusion criteria (74% systematic reviews) across 64 discrete interventions seeking 131 outcomes. Of the outcomes assessed, 16% (21 out of 131) were graded 'do it' (green go); 58% (76 out of 131) 'probably do it' (yellow measure); 20% (26 out of 131) 'probably do not do it' (yellow measure); and 6% (8 out of 131) 'do not do it' (red stop). Green interventions included anticonvulsants, bimanual training, botulinum toxin, bisphosphonates, casting, constraint-induced movement therapy, context-focused therapy, diazepam, fitness training, goal-directed training, hip surveillance, home programmes, occupational therapy after botulinum toxin, pressure care, and selective dorsal rhizotomy. Most (70%) evidence for intervention was lower level (yellow) while 6% was ineffective (red).

Interpretation: Evidence supports 15 green light interventions. All yellow light interventions should be accompanied by a sensitive outcome measure to monitor progress and red light interventions should be discontinued since alternatives exist.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Palsy / therapy*
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome*