[ARTICLE] Virtual reality in the rehabilitation of patients with stroke: an integrative review – Full Text


Objective: To describe the intervention protocols to using commercial video games as virtual reality (VR) in rehabilitation of patients with stroke.

Methods: Integrative review using the descriptors “rehabilitation”, “virtual reality exposure therapy” and “videogames” in the LILACS and PUBMED databases. Articles published from 2011 to 2018 were selected.

Results: We found 1,396 articles, 1,383 were excluded and 13 were selected. Most of the articles were randomized clinical trials published in 2014 or later. The sample size varied from 5–47 adults, or adults and elders, with chronic stroke. The Nintendo Wii® was the most used video game system. The intervention happened two or three times a week, each session lasting from 30 to 60 minutes, over 2–12 weeks. Balance, upper limb motor functions, quality of life and daily living activities were the most common evaluated outcomes. The Fugl-Meyer Assessment, Berg Balance Scale, Timed Up and Go test, Barthel Scale and SF-36 were the most common outcome measurement tools.

Conclusions: The studies indicated improvement in dynamic balance, upper limb motor function and quality of life after rehabilitation using VR. The VR was more effective than conventional treatments for the outcome of dynamic balance. Two studies did not find any changes in static balance and daily living activities. Physical aspects and quality of life were the outcomes most evaluated by the researchers; as were the population with chronic strokes and protocols of long duration and low intensity. Few studies targeted immediate VR effects, performance in daily living activities and social participation.


Rehabilitation of a patient is a process that involves the knowledge of the professional regarding the health condition and the repercussion it has on the life of the individual, as well as a broad scientific knowledge about the functioning of the human body, so that consistent decisions may be made1. In this process, assessing the situation, planning and choosing the best available evidences to perform clinical tasks is paramount to systematize decisions and optimize results2.

Many rehabilitation techniques described in the literature may help guide the intervention of professionals, such as physical training, kinesitherapy, robotic therapy, hydrotherapy, music therapy, intracortical stimulation and mental health practices, task-oriented training, mirror therapy, among others36. Virtual reality (VR) is a therapeutic approach that has been used in the field of rehabilitation in recent years. In this approach, users interact with virtual objects through the movements of their hands and body, or through tactile interfaces (gloves, joysticks, mouse), performing actions in a simulated environment7. The invention of low-cost human movement sensors in commercial game systems has made it easier to use video games for rehabilitation8. Examples of these systems include the Kinect for Microsoft’s Xbox®, the Nintendo Wii® and the PlayStationMove® by Sony.

The use of VR has increased the potential for motor learning and neuroplasticity during rehabilitation. A study using magnetic resonance imaging found consistent results, showing a reorganization of the sensorimotor cortex9. Functional improvements have also been associated with the use of VR by rehabilitation professionals. Allain et al.10 pointed out that performing a task in a virtual kitchen anticipated carrying out the task in real life. The virtual practice of shopping for groceries is associated with an improvement in the performance of actual grocery shopping11, and patients who interact with the virtual world have fewer limitations when performing daily activities12.

When VR has been applied in the rehabilitation of patients after strokes, it has mainly been used to help in the functional recovery of upper limbs, cognitive function, posture control and balance13,14. Deficiencies in the upper limb after strokes may negatively impact the daily life of patients, by limiting their ability to carry out essential tasks that are necessary for an independent life15. The VR offers a rich environment in which patients may, after a stroke, solve problems and develop new abilities16. Considering the above, this study aimed to review and analyze information from the literature on the main intervention protocols delineated by rehabilitation professionals, using VR in commercial video game systems for the treatment of patients who had suffered strokes, while also identifying the most common outcomes found by these professionals.[…]

Continue —>  Virtual reality in the rehabilitation of patients with stroke: an integrative review

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