[ARTICLE] Complementary and alternative interventions for fatigue management after traumatic brain injury: a systematic review – Full Text

We systematically reviewed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of complementary and alternative interventions for fatigue after traumatic brain injury (TBI).

We searched multiple online sources including ClinicalTrials.gov, the Cochrane Library database, MEDLINE, CINAHL, Embase, the Web of Science, AMED, PsychINFO, Toxline, ProQuest Digital Dissertations, PEDro, PsycBite, and the World Health Organization (WHO) trial registry, in addition to hand searching of grey literature. The methodological quality of each included study was assessed using the Jadad scale, and the quality of evidence was evaluated using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system. A descriptive review was performed.

Ten RCTs of interventions for post-TBI fatigue (PTBIF) that included 10 types of complementary and alternative interventions were assessed in our study. There were four types of physical interventions including aquatic physical activity, fitness-center-based exercise, Tai Chi, and aerobic training. The three types of cognitive and behavioral interventions (CBIs) were cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), and computerized working-memory training. The Flexyx Neurotherapy System (FNS) and cranial electrotherapy were the two types of biofeedback therapy, and finally, one type of light therapy was included. Although the four types of intervention included aquatic physical activity, MBSR, computerized working-memory training and blue-light therapy showed unequivocally effective results, the quality of evidence was low/very low according to the GRADE system.

The present systematic review of existing RCTs suggests that aquatic physical activity, MBSR, computerized working-memory training, and blue-light therapy may be beneficial treatments for PTBIF. Due to the many flaws and limitations in these studies, further controlled trials using these interventions for PTBIF are necessary.

Fatigue is a common phenomenon following traumatic brain injury (TBI), with a reported prevalence ranging from 21% to 80% [Ouellet and Morin, 2006Bushnik et al. 2007Dijkers and Bushnik, 2008Cantor et al. 2012Ponsford et al. 2012], regardless of TBI severity [Ouellet and Morin, 2006Ponsford et al. 2012]. Post-TBI fatigue (PTBIF) refers to fatigue that occurs secondary to TBI, which is generally viewed as a manifestation of ‘central fatigue’. Associated PTBIF symptoms include mental or physical exhaustion and inability to perform voluntary activities, and can be accompanied by cognitive dysfunction, sensory overstimulation, pain, and sleepiness [Cantor et al. 2013]. PTBIF appears to be persistent, affects most TBI patients daily, negatively impacts quality of life, and decreases life satisfaction [Olver et al. 1996Cantor et al.20082012Bay and De-Leon, 2010]. Given the ubiquitous presence of PTBIF, treatment or management of fatigue is important to improve the patient’s quality of life after TBI. However, the effectiveness of currently available treatments is limited.

Although pharmacological interventions such as piracetam, creatine, monoaminergic stabilizer OSU6162, and methylphenidate can alleviate fatigue, adverse effects limit their usage and further research is needed to clarify their effects [Hakkarainen and Hakamies, 1978Sakellaris et al.2008Johansson et al. 2012b2014]. Therefore, many researchers have attempted to identify complementary and alternative interventions to relieve PTBIF [Bateman et al. 2001Hodgson et al. 2005Gemmell and Leathem, 2006Hassett et al. 2009Johansson et al. 2012aBjörkdahl et al. 2013Sinclair et al. 2014]. In this study, we aimed to systematically review randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated treatment of PTBIF using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to provide practical recommendations for this syndrome.


Figure 1. The study selection process for the systematic review.

Continue —> Complementary and alternative interventions for fatigue management after traumatic brain injury: a systematic reviewTherapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders – Gang-Zhu Xu, Yan-Feng Li, Mao-De Wang, Dong-Yuan Cao, 2017


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