Cognitive impairment in people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) could affect multiple facets of their daily functioning. Cognitive rehabilitation brings about clinically significant improvement in certain cognitive skills. However, it is uncertain if these improved cognitive skills lead to betterments in other key aspects of daily living. We evaluated whether cognitive rehabilitation for people with TBI improves return to work, independence in daily activities, community integration and quality of life.
To evaluate the effects of cognitive rehabilitation on return to work, independence in daily activities, community integration (occupational outcomes) and quality of life in people with traumatic brain injury, and to determine which cognitive rehabilitation strategy better achieves these outcomes.
We searched CENTRAL (the Cochrane Library; 2017, Issue 3), MEDLINE (OvidSP), Embase (OvidSP), PsycINFO (OvidSP), and clinical trials registries up to 30 March 2017.
We identified all available randomized controlled trials of cognitive rehabilitation compared with any other non-pharmacological intervention for people with TBI. We included studies that reported at least one outcome related to : return to work, independence in activities of daily living (ADL), community integration and quality of life.
Two review authors independently selected trials. We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane. We evaluated heterogeneity among the included studies and performed meta-analysis only when we could include more than one study in a comparison. We used the online computer programme GRADEpro to assess the quality of evidence, and generate 'Summary of findings' tables.
We included nine studies with 790 participants. Three trials (160 participants) compared cognitive rehabilitation versus no treatment, four trials (144 participants) compared cognitive rehabilitation versus conventional treatment, one trial (120 participants) compared hospital-based cognitive rehabilitation versus home programme and one trial (366 participants) compared one cognitive strategy versus another. Among the included studies, we judged three to be of low risk of bias.There was no difference between cognitive rehabilitation and no intervention in return to work (risk ratio (RR) 1.80, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.74 to 4.39, 1 study; very low-quality evidence). There was no difference between biweekly cognitive rehabilitation for eight weeks and no treatment in community integration (Sydney Psychosocial Reintegration Scale): mean difference (MD) -2.90, 95% CI -12.57 to 6.77, 1 study; low-quality evidence). There was no difference in quality of life between cognitive rehabilitation and no intervention immediately following the 12-week intervention(MD 0.30, 95% CI -0.18 to 0.78, 1 study; low-quality evidence). No study reported effects on independence in ADL.There was no difference between cognitive rehabilitation and conventional treatment in return to work status at six months' follow-up in one study (RR 1.43, 95% CI 0.87 to 2.33; low-quality evidence); independence in ADL at three to four weeks' follow-up in two studies (standardized mean difference (SMD) -0.01, 95% CI -0.62 to 0.61; very low-quality evidence); community integration at three weeks' to six months' follow-up in three studies (Community Integration Questionnaire: MD 0.05, 95% CI -1.51 to 1.62; low-quality evidence) and quality of life at six months' follow-up in one study (Perceived Quality of Life scale: MD 6.50, 95% CI -2.57 to 15.57; moderate-quality evidence).For active duty military personnel with moderate-to-severe closed head injury, there was no difference between eight weeks of cognitive rehabilitation administered as a home programme and hospital-based cognitive rehabilitation in achieving return to work at one year' follow-up in one study (RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.85 to 1.05; moderate-quality evidence). The study did not report effects on independence in ADL, community integration or quality of life.There was no difference between one cognitive rehabilitation strategy (cognitive didactic) and another (functional experiential) for adult veterans or active duty military service personnel with moderate-to-severe TBI (one study with 366 participants and one year' follow-up) on return to work (RR 1.10, 95% CI 0.83 to 1.46; moderate-quality evidence), or on independence in ADL (RR 0.90, 95% CI 0.75 to 1.08; low-quality evidence). The study did not report effects on community integration or quality of life.None of the studies reported adverse effects of cognitive rehabilitation.
There is insufficient good-quality evidence to support the role of cognitive rehabilitation when compared to no intervention or conventional rehabilitation in improving return to work, independence in ADL, community integration or quality of life in adults with TBI. There is moderate-quality evidence that cognitive rehabilitation provided as a home programme is similar to hospital-based cognitive rehabilitation in improving return to work status among active duty military personnel with moderate-to-severe TBI. Moderate-quality evidence suggests that one cognitive rehabilitation strategy (cognitive didactic) is no better than another (functional experiential) in achieving return to work in veterans or military personnel with TBI.