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Virtual Reality for Stroke Patients

01 Nov

Researchers from McGill University in Montreal analyzed research data on the effectiveness of Virtual Reality for retraining motor function of the upper limbs in stroke patients. They posed two questions to examine:  (1) Is the use of immersive VR more effective than conventional therapy or no therapy in the rehabilitation of the UL in patients with hemiplegia? and (2) Is the use of nonimmersive VR more effective than conventional therapy or no therapy in the rehabilitation of the UL in patients with hemiplegia?

Meta-analysis revealed level 1b evidence (individual controlled, randomized trials) suggesting an advantage to training in immersive VR environments versus no therapy in upper limb rehabilitation, and level 5 evidence (expert opinion without clinical appraisal) for training in immersive VR versus conventional therapy.

There is level 4 evidence (case studies only) showing conflicting results for training in nonimmersive VR versus no therapy, and level 2b evidence (Individual cohort study or low quality randomized controlled trials) for training in nonimmersive VR versus conventional therapy.

Investigators conclude that current evidence on the effectiveness of using VR in the rehabilitation of the UL in patients with stroke is limited, but sufficiently encouraging to justify additional clinical trials in this population. [Ed. note: It is not clear to me that this is such encouraging evidence, especially since the immersive VR is not being compared to other immersive methods, and one has to wonder if these investigators are biased in favor of VR in spite of the evidence.]

Citation: 
Henderson A, Korner-Bitensky N, Levin M. Virtual reality in stroke rehabilitation: a systematic review of its effectiveness for upper limb motor recovery. Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation. 2007 Mar-Apr;14 (2):pages 52-61.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award