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Review Article

Int Med. 2019; 1(2): 67-77

Effects of virtual reality based physical therapy interventions on balance and gait performances of chronic hemiparetic stroke patients – a literature review.

Michael W. Jung, Eric Steeves.

Background: Approximately 795.000 strokes occur each year in the United States of America. On average, every 40 seconds, an American suffers a stroke (AHA, 2014). Hemiparesis is a common post-stroke symptomatic condition (about 8/10 stroke survivors), with dramatic impact on balance, gait and activities of daily living.
Approximately 2/3 of stroke survivors need an intensive rehabilitation provided by multidisciplinary teams, in which physiotherapy plays a significant role.
Method: A systematic review was conducted in the PEDro database. Studies published after 2007 were searched.
Results: Clinical trials including virtual rehabilitation interventions for stroke patients started to appear in the early 2000s. Meanwhile, the latest Cochrane systematic review titled “Virtual reality for stroke rehabilitation” includes 72 trials involving 2470 participants, showing an increasing therapeutically interest.
The primary objective of this study is to clarify if virtual reality-based therapy can offer a genuine clinical alternative to conventional physical therapy in the treatment of chronic hemiparetic stroke patients, helping physiotherapists and individuals reach higher rehabilitation performance outcomes in terms of balance and ambulation.
Conclusion: The three trials presented in this essay show that balance recovery benefits most from a combination of virtual reality-based and conventional physiotherapy.
Moreover, virtual task-oriented exercises can be enjoyable and motivating, increasing patient compliance to rehabilitation.

Key words: Virtual reality / Physiotherapy / Neurology / Stroke / Rehabilitation / Balance / Gait

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