Effects of virtual reality rehabilitation training on gait and balance in patients with Parkinson's disease: A systematic review

PLoS One. 2019 Nov 7;14(11):e0224819. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0224819. eCollection 2019.


Objective: In recent years, virtual reality (VR) has been tested as a therapeutic tool in neurorehabilitation research. However, the impact effectiveness of VR technology on for Parkinson's Disease (PD) patients is still remains controversial unclear. In order to provide a more scientific basis for rehabilitation of PD patients' modality, we conducted a systematic review of VR rehabilitation training for PD patients and focused on the improvement of gait and balance.

Methods: An comprehensive search was conducted using the following databases: PubMed, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, CINHAL, Embase and CNKI (China National Knowledge Infrastructure).Articles published before 30 December 2018 and of a randomized controlled trial design to study the effects of VR for patients with PD were included. The study data were pooled and a meta-analysis was completed. This systematic review was conducted in accordance with the PRISMA guideline statement and was registered in the PROSPERO database (CRD42018110264).

Results: A total of sixteen articles involving 555 participants with PD were included in our analysis. VR rehabilitation training performed better than conventional or traditional rehabilitation training in three aspects: step and stride length (SMD = 0.72, 95%CI = 0.40,1.04, Z = 4.38, P<0.01), balance function (SMD = 0.22, 95%CI = 0.01,0.42, Z = 2.09, P = 0.037), and mobility(MD = -1.95, 95%CI = -2.81,-1.08, Z = 4.41, P<0.01). There was no effect on the dynamic gait index (SMD = -0.15, 95%CI = -0.50,0.19, Z = 0.86, P = 0.387), and gait speed (SMD = 0.19, 95%CI = -0.03,0.40, Z = 1.71, P = 0.088).As for the secondary outcomes, compared with the control group, VR rehabilitation training demonstrated more significant effects on the improvement of quality of life (SMD = -0.47, 95%CI = -0.73,-0.22, Z = 3.64, P<0.01), level of confidence (SMD = -0.73, 95%CI = -1.43,-0.03, Z = 2.05, P = 0.040), and neuropsychiatric symptoms (SMD = -0.96, 95%CI = -1.27,-0.65, Z = 6.07, P<0.01), while it may have similar effects on global motor function (SMD = -0.50, 95%CI = -1.48,0.48, Z = 0.99, P = 0.32), activities of daily living (SMD = 0.25, 95%CI = -0.14,0.64, Z = 1.24, P = 0.216), and cognitive function (SMD = 0.21, 95%CI = -0.28,0.69, Z = 0.84, P = 0.399).During the included interventions, four patients developed mild dizziness and one patient developed severe dizziness and vomiting.

Conclusions: According to the results of this study, we found that VR rehabilitation training can not only achieve the same effect as conventional rehabilitation training. Moreover, it has better performance on gait and balance in patients with PD. Taken together, when the effect of traditional rehabilitation training on gait and balance of PD patients is not good enough, we believe that VR rehabilitation training can at least be used as an alternative therapy. More rigorous design of large-sample, multicenter randomized controlled trials are needed to provide a stronger evidence-based basis for verifying its potential advantages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Cognition
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology
  • Parkinson Disease / rehabilitation*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Publication Bias
  • Quality of Life
  • Telerehabilitation*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Virtual Reality*

Grants and funding

This work is supported by the Science and Technology Project of Sichuan Health Commission(18PJ331). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.