Dysarthria is an acquired speech disorder following neurological injury that reduces intelligibility of speech due to weak, imprecise, slow and/or unco-ordinated muscle control. The impact of dysarthria goes beyond communication and affects psychosocial functioning. This is an update of a review previously published in 2005. The scope has been broadened to include additional interventions, and the title amended accordingly.
To assess the effects of interventions to improve dysarthric speech following stroke and other non-progressive adult-acquired brain injury such as trauma, infection, tumour and surgery.
We searched the Cochrane Stroke Group Trials Register (May 2016), CENTRAL (Cochrane Library 2016, Issue 4), MEDLINE, Embase, and CINAHL on 6 May 2016. We also searched Linguistics and Language Behavioral Abstracts (LLBA) (1976 to November 2016) and PsycINFO (1800 to September 2016). To identify further published, unpublished and ongoing trials, we searched major trials registers: WHO ICTRP, the ISRCTN registry, and ClinicalTrials.gov. We also handsearched the reference lists of relevant articles and contacted academic institutions and other researchers regarding other published, unpublished or ongoing trials. We did not impose any language restrictions.
We selected randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing dysarthria interventions with 1) no intervention, 2) another intervention for dysarthria (this intervention may differ in methodology, timing of delivery, duration, frequency or theory), or 3) an attention control.
Three review authors selected trials for inclusion, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias. We attempted to contact study authors for clarification and missing data as required. We calculated standardised mean difference (SMD) and 95% confidence interval (CI), using a random-effects model, and performed sensitivity analyses to assess the influence of methodological quality. We planned to conduct subgroup analyses for underlying clinical conditions.
We included five small trials that randomised a total of 234 participants. Two studies were assessed as low risk of bias; none of the included studies were adequately powered. Two studies used an attention control and three studies compared to an alternative intervention, which in all cases was one intervention versus usual care intervention. The searches we carried out did not find any trials comparing an intervention with no intervention. The searches did not find any trials of an intervention that compared variations in timing, dose, or intensity of treatment using the same intervention. Four studies included only people with stroke; one included mostly people with stroke, but also those with brain injury. Three studies delivered interventions in the first few months after stroke; two recruited people with chronic dysarthria. Three studies evaluated behavioural interventions, one investigated acupuncture and another transcranial magnetic stimulation. One study included people with dysarthria within a broader trial of people with impaired communication.Our primary analysis of a persisting (three to nine months post-intervention) effect at the activity level of measurement found no evidence in favour of dysarthria intervention compared with any control (SMD 0.18, 95% CI -0.18 to 0.55; 3 trials, 116 participants, GRADE: low quality, I² = 0%). Findings from sensitivity analysis of studies at low risk of bias were similar, with a slightly wider confidence interval and low heterogeneity (SMD 0.21, 95% CI -0.30 to 0.73, I² = 32%; 2 trials, 92 participants, GRADE: low quality). Subgroup analysis results for stroke were similar to the primary analysis because few non-stroke participants had been recruited to trials (SMD 0.16, 95% CI -0.23 to 0.54, I² = 0%; 3 trials, 106 participants, GRADE: low quality).Similar results emerged from most of the secondary analyses. There was no evidence of a persisting effect at the impairment (SMD 0.07, 95% CI -0.91 to 1.06, I² = 70%; 2 trials, 56 participants, GRADE: very low quality) or participation level (SMD -0.11, 95% CI -0.56 to 0.33, I² = 0%; 2 trials, 79 participants, GRADE: low quality) but substantial heterogeneity on the former. Analyses of immediate post-intervention outcomes provided no evidence of any short-term benefit on activity (SMD 0.29, 95% CI -0.07 to 0.66, I² = 0%; 3 trials, 117 participants, GRADE: very low quality); or participation (SMD -0.24, 95% CI -0.94 to 0.45; 1 study, 32 participants) levels of measurement.There was a statistically significant effect favouring intervention at the immediate, impairment level of measurement (SMD 0.47, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.92, P = 0.04, I² = 0%; 4 trials, 99 participants, GRADE: very low quality) but only one of these four trials had a low risk of bias.
We found no definitive, adequately powered RCTs of interventions for people with dysarthria. We found limited evidence to suggest there may be an immediate beneficial effect on impairment level measures; more, higher quality research is needed to confirm this finding.Although we evaluated five studies, the benefits and risks of interventions remain unknown and the emerging evidence justifies the need for adequately powered clinical trials into this condition.People with dysarthria after stroke or brain injury should continue to receive rehabilitation according to clinical guidelines.