Traditional and augmented reality mirror therapy for patients with chronic phantom limb pain (PACT study): results of a three-group, multicentre single-blind randomized controlled trial

Clin Rehabil. 2018 Dec;32(12):1591-1608. doi: 10.1177/0269215518785948. Epub 2018 Jul 16.


Objective:: To compare the effects of traditional mirror therapy (MT), a patient-centred teletreatment (PACT) and sensomotor exercises without a mirror on phantom limb pain (PLP).

Design:: Three-arm multicentre randomized controlled trial.

Setting:: Rehabilitation centres, hospital and private practices.

Subjects:: Adult patients with unilateral lower limb amputation and average PLP intensity of at least 3 on the 0-10 Numeric Rating Scale (NRS).

Interventions:: Subjects randomly received either four weeks of traditional MT followed by a teletreatment using augmented reality MT, traditional MT followed by self-delivered MT or sensomotor exercises of the intact limb without a mirror followed by self-delivered exercises.

Main measures:: Intensity, frequency and duration of PLP and patient-reported outcomes assessing limitations in daily life at baseline, 4 weeks, 10 weeks and 6 months.

Results:: In total, 75 patients received traditional MT ( n = 25), teletreatment ( n = 26) or sensomotor exercises ( n = 24). Mean (SD) age was 61.1 (14.2) years and mean (SD) pain intensity was 5.7 (2.1) on the NRS. Effects of MT at four weeks on PLP were not significant. MT significantly reduced the duration of PLP at six months compared to the teletreatment ( P = 0.050) and control group ( P = 0.019). Subgroup analyses suggested significant effects on PLP in women, patients with telescoping and patients with a motor component in PLP. The teletreatment had no additional effects compared to self-delivered MT at 10 weeks and 6 months.

Conclusion:: Traditional MT over four weeks was not more effective than sensomotor exercises without a mirror in reducing PLP, although significant effects were suggested in some subgroups.

Keywords: Amputation; augmented reality; mirror therapy; phantom limb; telerehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amputation, Surgical / adverse effects
  • Amputation, Surgical / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Phantom Limb / diagnosis
  • Phantom Limb / etiology
  • Phantom Limb / therapy*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy / methods*