Patients who have had a stroke can experience significant improvements in their lives if they receive occupational therapy – their chances of deteriorating are also reduced, according to an article in the The British Medical Journal, issued this week.

Stroke is the foremost cause of severe, long-term disability in adults worldwide, as well as being the second leading cause of death. About half of all stroke sufferers, six months after their stroke took place, are still dependent on others to eat, dress, and go to the toilet. The writers pointed out that although it is widely recognized that rehabilitation is important after a stroke, we do not know enough about how successful the separate components of the rehabilitation package are.

What is Occupational Therapy?

According to the writers, Occupational Therapy is the use of “purposeful activity designed to achieve outcomes which promote health, prevent injury or disability and which develop, improve or restore the highest possible level of independence.”

However, Occupational Therapy has several different components. In this study, the researchers compared an occupational therapy intervention group of patients with another group that received no routine intervention.

The writers focused on nine randomized controlled trials, involving a total of 1,258 patients. Their mean age ranged from 55 to 87.5 years.

The researchers discovered that those who had received occupational therapy after a stroke were much more independent and able to carry out everyday tasks, compared to those who received no routine intervention. Moreover, the occupational therapy patients also had better outcome chances – they were less likely to be dependent on others and their deterioration was significantly lower.

“Occupational therapy after stroke “works” in that it improves outcome in terms of ability in personal activities of daily living,” the writers concluded.

Further research is needed to identify what type of people have the best chance to benefit from occupational therapy and which specific interventions have the best impact, explained the authors.

“Occupational therapy for patients with problems in personal activities of daily living after stroke: systematic review of randomized trials”
Lynn Legg, Avril Drummond, Jo Leonardi-Bee, J R F Gladman, Susan Corr, Mireille Donkervoort, Judi Edmans, Louise Gilbertson, Lyn Jongbloed, Pip Logan, Catherine Sackley, Marion Walker, Peter Langhorne
BMJ Online First

Written by: Christian Nordqvist