Effectiveness of Technology-Based Distance Physical Rehabilitation Interventions for Improving Physical Functioning in Stroke: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Published:December 07, 2018DOI:



      To study the effectiveness of technology-based distance physical rehabilitation interventions on physical functioning in stroke.

      Data Sources

      A systematic literature search was conducted in 6 databases from January 2000 to May 2018.

      Study Selection

      Inclusion criteria applied the patient, intervention, comparison, outcome, study design framework as follows: (P) stroke; (I) technology-based distance physical rehabilitation interventions; (C) any comparison without the use of technology; (O) physical functioning; (S) randomized controlled trials (RCTs). The search identified in total 693 studies, and the screening of 162 full-text studies revealed 13 eligible studies.

      Data Extraction

      The studies were screened using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis guidelines and assessed for methodological quality and quality of evidence. Meta-analysis was performed if applicable.

      Data Synthesis

      A total of 13 studies were included, and online video monitoring was the most used technology. Seven outcomes of physical functioning were identified—activities of daily living (ADL), upper extremity functioning, lower extremity functioning, balance, walking, physical activity, and participation. A meta-analysis of 6 RCTs indicated that technology-based distance physical rehabilitation had a similar effect on ADL (standard mean difference 0.06; 95% confidence interval: −0.22 to 0.35, P=.67) compared to the combination of traditional treatments (usual care, similar and other treatment). Similar results were obtained for other outcomes, except inconsistent findings were noted for walking. Methodological quality of the studies and quality of evidence were considered low.


      The findings suggest that the effectiveness of technology-based distance physical rehabilitation interventions on physical functioning might be similar compared to traditional treatments in stroke. Further research should be performed to confirm the effectiveness of technology-based distance physical rehabilitation interventions for improving physical functioning of persons with stroke.


      List of abbreviations:

      ADL (activities of daily living), BBS (Berg Balance Scale), GRADE (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation), ICF (International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health), LLFDI (Late-Life Function and Disability Instrument), PICOS (patient, intervention, comparison, outcome, study design), RCT (randomized controlled trial), SIS (Stroke Impact Scale), SMD (standard mean difference)
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