Virtual Reality for Upper Limb Rehabilitation in Subacute and Chronic Stroke: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2018 May;99(5):834-842.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2018.01.023. Epub 2018 Feb 14.


Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of reinforced feedback in virtual environment (RFVE) treatment combined with conventional rehabilitation (CR) in comparison with CR alone, and to study whether changes are related to stroke etiology (ie, ischemic, hemorrhagic).

Design: Randomized controlled trial.

Setting: Hospital facility for intensive rehabilitation.

Participants: Patients (N=136) within 1 year from onset of a single stroke (ischemic: n=78, hemorrhagic: n=58).

Interventions: The experimental treatment was based on the combination of RFVE with CR, whereas control treatment was based on the same amount of CR. Both treatments lasted 2 hours daily, 5d/wk, for 4 weeks.

Main outcome measures: Fugl-Meyer upper extremity scale (F-M UE) (primary outcome), FIM, National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS), and Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) (secondary outcomes). Kinematic parameters of requested movements included duration (time), mean linear velocity (speed), and number of submovements (peak) (secondary outcomes).

Results: Patients were randomized in 2 groups (RFVE with CR: n=68, CR: n=68) and stratified by stroke etiology (ischemic or hemorrhagic). Both groups improved after treatment, but the experimental group had better results than the control group (Mann-Whitney U test) for F-M UE (P<.001), FIM (P<.001), NIHSS (P≤.014), ESAS (P≤.022), time (P<.001), speed (P<.001), and peak (P<.001). Stroke etiology did not have significant effects on patient outcomes.

Conclusions: The RFVE therapy combined with CR treatment promotes better outcomes for upper limb than the same amount of CR, regardless of stroke etiology.

Trial registration: NCT01955291.

Keywords: Feedback; Rehabilitation; Stroke; Virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Chronic Disease
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recovery of Function
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Stroke / etiology*
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Stroke Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Upper Extremity / physiopathology
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy / methods*

Associated data