Constraint-induced movement therapy for upper extremities in stroke patients

Valeria Sirtori, Davide Corbetta, Lorenzo Moja, Roberto Gatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In stroke patients, upper limb paresis affects many activities of daily life. Reducing disability is therefore a major aim of rehabilitation programmes for hemiparetic patients. Constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) is a current approach to stroke rehabilitation that implies the forced use and the massed practice of the affected arm by restraining the unaffected arm. Objectives: To assess the efficacy of CIMT, modified CIMT (mCIMT), or forced use (FU) for arm management in hemiparetic patients. Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Stroke Group trials register (last searched June 2008), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library Issue 1, 2008), MEDLINE (1966 to June 2008), EMBASE (1980 to June 2008), CINAHL (1982 to June 2008), and the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) (June 2008). Selection criteria: Randomised control trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs (qRCTs) comparing CIMT, mCIMT or FU with other rehabilitative techniques, or none. Data collection and analysis: Two reviewauthors independently classified the identified trials according to the inclusion and exclusion criteria, assessedmethodological quality and extracted data. The primary outcome was disability. Main results: We included 19 studies involving 619 participants. The trials included participants who had some residual motor power of the paretic arm, the potential for further motor recovery and with limited pain or spasticity, but tended to use the limb little if at all. Only five studies had adequate allocation concealment. The majority of studies were underpowered (median number of included patients was 15) and we cannot rule out small-trial bias. Six trials (184 patients) assessed disability immediately after the intervention, indicating a significant standard mean difference (SMD) of 0.36, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.06 to 0.65. For the most frequently reported outcome, arm motor function (11 studies involving 373 patients), the SMD was 0.72 (95% CI 0.32 to 1.12). There were only two studies that explored disability improvement after a few months of follow up and found no significant difference, SMD -0.07 (95% CI -0.53 to 0.40). Authors' conclusions: CIMTis a multifaceted intervention: the restriction to the normal limb is accompanied by a certain amount of exercise of the appropriate quality. It is associated with a moderate reduction in disability assessed at the end of the treatment period. However, for disability measured some months after the end of treatment, there was no evidence of persisting benefit. Further randomised trials, with larger sample sizes and longer follow up, are justified.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD004433
JournalThe Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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