What is the effectiveness of virtual reality on increasing upper extremity function in adults diagnosed with a CVA?

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Belanger, Emily
Howatt, Hannah
Springer, Bliss
Wolfe, Folasade
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Upper Extermity , Stroke , Virtual Reality
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ABSTRACT BACKGROUND: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. has a stroke, with a death occurring from a stroke every 3 minutes and 14 seconds (2021). According to Mayo Clinic (2024), common side effects of stroke include hemiparesis, dysphagia, aphasia, memory loss, emotional dysregulation, pain, and limitations in performing activities of daily living (ADLs). Not only does upper extremity dysfunction affect a person’s physical performance, but it also impacts their emotions, cognition, and behaviors influencing their health and well-being (Poltawski et al., 2016). It is estimated that 70% of stroke patients will experience upper extremity dysfunction (Uchiyama et al., 2024). Recently, the use of virtual reality (VR) has been explored as an alternative or adjunctive treatment to conventional therapies to treat upper extremity dysfunction following a stroke. Interventions utilizing VR typically include the use of active participation in a simulated environment that is either non-immersive (on a screen), semi-immersive (extended visual display), or fully immersive using a headset (AOTA, 2020). AIM: The aim of this critically acclaimed topic (CAT) is to determine the effectiveness of virtual reality interventions on increasing upper extremity function in adults post-CVA. METHODS: Multiple databases were searched for level 1A and 1B articles that studied the effects of various virtual reality interventions and their impact on upper extremity function. The articles were further condensed to include only those published within the past four years. These seven articles had at least one outcome measure that focused on upper extremity function utilizing virtual reality interventions. RESULTS: Articles appraised included Level 1A and 1B evidence, which were shown to demonstrate a strong level of support for the use of virtual reality interventions with patients following their stroke to increase overall upper extremity function. Further research with high levels of evidence (systematic reviews and meta-analyses of homogenous RCTs) are recommended, however, including those with larger sample sizes, more restrictive inclusion criteria, longer lengths of studies, and efforts to reduce bias to build upon the current literature available.
Creighton University
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