Background: Stroke is the leading cause of disability worldwide, with many stroke survivors having persistent upper limb functional impairment. Aside from therapist-directed rehabilitation, few efficacious recovery tools are available for use by stroke survivors in their own home. Game-based virtual reality systems have already shown promising results in therapist-supervised settings and may be suitable for home-based use.
Objective: We aimed to assess the feasibility of unsupervised home-based use of a virtual reality device for hand rehabilitation in stroke survivors.
Methodology: Twenty subacute/chronic stroke patients with upper extremity impairment were enrolled in this prospective single-arm study. Participants were instructed to use the Neofect Smart Glove 5 days per week for 8 weeks, in single sessions of 50 minutes or two 25-minute sessions daily. We measured (1) compliance to prescribed rehabilitation dose, (2) patient impression of the intervention, and (3) efficacy measures including the upper extremity Fugl-Meyer (UE-FM), the Jebsen-Taylor hand function test (JTHFT) and the Stroke Impact Scale (SIS).
Results: Seven subjects (35%) met target compliance of 40 days use, and 6 subjects (30%) used the device for 20-39 days; there were no age or gender differences in use. Subjective patient experience was favorable, with ninety percent of subjects reporting satisfaction with their overall experience, and 80% reporting perceived improvement in hand function (figure 1). There was a mean improvement of 26.6±48.8 seconds in the JTHFT (p=0.03) and 16.1±15.3 points in the domain of the SIS that assesses hand function (p<0.01). There was a trend towards improvement in the UE-FM (2.2±5.5 points, p=0.10).
Conclusions: A novel virtual reality gaming device is suitable for unsupervised use in stroke patients and may improve hand/arm function in subacute/chronic stroke patients. A large-scale randomized controlled trial is needed to confirm these results.