Repetitive task training (RTT) involves the active practice of task-specific motor activities and is a component of current therapy approaches in stroke rehabilitation.
Primary objective: To determine if RTT improves upper limb function/reach and lower limb function/balance in adults after stroke. Secondary objectives: 1) To determine the effect of RTT on secondary outcome measures including activities of daily living, global motor function, quality of life/health status and adverse events. 2) To determine the factors that could influence primary and secondary outcome measures, including the effect of 'dose' of task practice; type of task (whole therapy, mixed or single task); timing of the intervention and type of intervention.
We searched the Cochrane Stroke Group Trials Register (4 March 2016); the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (the Cochrane Library 2016, Issue 5: 1 October 2006 to 24 June 2016); MEDLINE (1 October 2006 to 8 March 2016); Embase (1 October 2006 to 8 March 2016); CINAHL (2006 to 23 June 2016); AMED (2006 to 21 June 2016) and SPORTSDiscus (2006 to 21 June 2016).
Randomised/quasi-randomised trials in adults after stroke, where the intervention was an active motor sequence performed repetitively within a single training session, aimed towards a clear functional goal.
Two review authors independently screened abstracts, extracted data and appraised trials. We determined the quality of evidence within each study and outcome group using the Cochrane 'Risk of bias' tool and GRADE (Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development and Evaluation) criteria. We did not assess follow-up outcome data using GRADE. We contacted trial authors for additional information.
We included 33 trials with 36 intervention-control pairs and 1853 participants. The risk of bias present in many studies was unclear due to poor reporting; the evidence has therefore been rated 'moderate' or 'low' when using the GRADE system. There is low-quality evidence that RTT improves arm function (standardised mean difference (SMD) 0.25, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.01 to 0.49; 11 studies, number of participants analysed = 749), hand function (SMD 0.25, 95% CI 0.00 to 0.51; eight studies, number of participants analysed = 619), and lower limb functional measures (SMD 0.29, 95% CI 0.10 to 0.48; five trials, number of participants analysed = 419). There is moderate-quality evidence that RTT improves walking distance (mean difference (MD) 34.80, 95% CI 18.19 to 51.41; nine studies, number of participants analysed = 610) and functional ambulation (SMD 0.35, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.66; eight studies, number of participants analysed = 525). We found significant differences between groups for both upper-limb (SMD 0.92, 95% CI 0.58 to 1.26; three studies, number of participants analysed = 153) and lower-limb (SMD 0.34, 95% CI 0.16 to 0.52; eight studies, number of participants analysed = 471) outcomes up to six months post treatment but not after six months. Effects were not modified by intervention type, dosage of task practice or time since stroke for upper or lower limb. There was insufficient evidence to be certain about the risk of adverse events.
There is low- to moderate-quality evidence that RTT improves upper and lower limb function; improvements were sustained up to six months post treatment. Further research should focus on the type and amount of training, including ways of measuring the number of repetitions actually performed by participants. The definition of RTT will need revisiting prior to further updates of this review in order to ensure it remains clinically meaningful and distinguishable from other interventions.