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Virtual reality-augmented neurorehabilitation improves motor function and reduces neuropathic pain in patients with incomplete spinal cord injury


Villiger, Michael; Bohli, Dominik; Kiper, Daniel; Pyk, Pawel; Spillmann, Jeremy; Meilick, Bruno; Curt, Armin; Hepp-Reymond, Marie-Claude; Hotz-Boendermaker, Sabina; Eng, Kynan (2013). Virtual reality-augmented neurorehabilitation improves motor function and reduces neuropathic pain in patients with incomplete spinal cord injury. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 27(8):675-683.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Neurorehabilitation interventions to improve lower limb function and neuropathic pain have had limited success in people with chronic, incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI). OBJECTIVE: We hypothesized that intense virtual reality (VR)-augmented training of observed and executed leg movements would improve limb function and neuropathic pain. METHODS: . Patients used a VR system with a first-person view of virtual lower limbs, controlled via movement sensors fitted to the patient's own shoes. Four tasks were used to deliver intensive training of individual muscles (tibialis anterior, quadriceps, leg ad-/abductors). The tasks engaged motivation through feedback of task success. Fourteen chronic iSCI patients were treated over 4 weeks in 16 to 20 sessions of 45 minutes. Outcome measures were 10 Meter Walking Test, Berg Balance Scale, Lower Extremity Motor Score, Spinal Cord Independence Measure, Locomotion and Neuropathic Pain Scale (NPS), obtained at the start and at 4 to 6 weeks before intervention. RESULTS: In addition to positive changes reported by the patients (Patients' Global Impression of Change), measures of walking capacity, balance, and strength revealed improvements in lower limb function. Intensity and unpleasantness of neuropathic pain in half of the affected participants were reduced on the NPS test. Overall findings remained stable 12 to 16 weeks after termination of the training. CONCLUSIONS: In a pretest/posttest, uncontrolled design, VR-augmented training was associated with improvements in motor function and neuropathic pain in persons with chronic iSCI, several of which reached the level of a minimal clinically important change. A controlled trial is needed to compare this intervention to active training alone or in combination.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Neurorehabilitation interventions to improve lower limb function and neuropathic pain have had limited success in people with chronic, incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI). OBJECTIVE: We hypothesized that intense virtual reality (VR)-augmented training of observed and executed leg movements would improve limb function and neuropathic pain. METHODS: . Patients used a VR system with a first-person view of virtual lower limbs, controlled via movement sensors fitted to the patient's own shoes. Four tasks were used to deliver intensive training of individual muscles (tibialis anterior, quadriceps, leg ad-/abductors). The tasks engaged motivation through feedback of task success. Fourteen chronic iSCI patients were treated over 4 weeks in 16 to 20 sessions of 45 minutes. Outcome measures were 10 Meter Walking Test, Berg Balance Scale, Lower Extremity Motor Score, Spinal Cord Independence Measure, Locomotion and Neuropathic Pain Scale (NPS), obtained at the start and at 4 to 6 weeks before intervention. RESULTS: In addition to positive changes reported by the patients (Patients' Global Impression of Change), measures of walking capacity, balance, and strength revealed improvements in lower limb function. Intensity and unpleasantness of neuropathic pain in half of the affected participants were reduced on the NPS test. Overall findings remained stable 12 to 16 weeks after termination of the training. CONCLUSIONS: In a pretest/posttest, uncontrolled design, VR-augmented training was associated with improvements in motor function and neuropathic pain in persons with chronic iSCI, several of which reached the level of a minimal clinically important change. A controlled trial is needed to compare this intervention to active training alone or in combination.

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19 citations in Web of Science®
13 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Balgrist University Hospital, Swiss Spinal Cord Injury Center
07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Neuroinformatics
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:10 June 2013
Deposited On:20 Jun 2013 11:30
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:49
Publisher:SAGE Publications
ISSN:1545-9683
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/1545968313490999
PubMed ID:23757298

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