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Occupational therapy benefits stroke patients

StrokeOct 26, 06

Occupational therapy helps stroke patients recover their ability to care for themselves and also keeps them independent longer, according to a new scientific review of the best available data.

“The most important finding is that occupational therapy works,” Dr. Lynn Legg of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in Scotland, the study’s lead author, said in a press release accompanying the study. “Very few interventions have had such an impact.”

Legg’s group points out that more information is needed the answer questions such as which occupational therapy approaches are the most effective, how long therapy should be offered, and how often patients should have it.

One third of all stroke patients may lose their ability to live independently, the researchers note in The Cochrane Library, a journal published by an international organization devoted to evaluating health care research. Although the benefits of rehabilitation after stroke clear, they add, the specific components of rehabilitation that facilitate recovery are less well understood.

To investigate, Legg and her team reviewed 10 studies that included 1,348 subjects who had a stroke. The studies compared the effects of occupational therapy with usual care or no care.

The occupational therapy specifically focused on helping patients regain the ability to perform their personal everyday functions that were needed for independent living and, in some cases, leisure and work-related skills.

The researchers found that patients who underwent occupational therapy were less likely to show deterioration in their abilities and better able to perform activities of daily living, like cooking and bathing. All of the effective therapies were delivered by qualified occupational therapists at the patient’s home.

“What is clear from this review is that the debate should move from considering whether occupational therapy services are effective to determining what elements make them effective,” the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: The Cochrane Library, October 18, 2006.

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