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Int J Evid Based Healthc. 2012 Jun;10(2):89-102. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-1609.2012.00261.x.

Interventions for improving coordination of reach to grasp following stroke: a systematic review.

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  • 1School of Psychology, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.



Stroke is associated with disruption to efficient and accurate reach to grasp function. Information about treatments for upper limb coordination deficits and their effectiveness may contribute to improved recovery of upper limb function after stroke.


To identify all existing interventions targeted at coordination of arm and hand segments for reach to grasp following stroke. To determine the effectiveness of current treatments for improving coordination of reach to grasp after stroke.


The search included The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library); MEDLINE; EMBASE; CINAHL; AMED; ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (International) and ISI Proceedings (Conference) databases. A grey literature search included Mednar, Dissertation International, Conference Proceedings, National Institute of Health Clinical Trials and the National Institute of Clinical Studies. We also explored Physiotherapy Evidence Database, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Research and REHABDATA therapy databases. Finally, the reference lists of identified articles were examined for additional studies. The search spanned from 1950 to April 2010 and was limited to English language papers only.


Studies were included with a specific design objective related to coordination of the hand and arm during reach to grasp and involving participants with a clinical diagnosis of stroke. The review was inclusive with regard to study design. To determine effectiveness of interventions we analysed studies with coordination measures that exist within impairment measurement scales or specific kinematic measures of coordination. The methodological quality of the studies was assessed by two independent authors using the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Critical Appraisal Checklist for Comparable Cohort/Case Control and the JBI Critical Appraisal Checklist for Experimental Studies together with additional questions from Downs and Black. Two review authors independently extracted data from the studies using standardised JBI-MAStARI data extraction forms. Pooling of results was not appropriate so the findings were summarised in tables and in narrative form.


One randomised controlled trial, two case-control studies and four experimental studies without controls were included in this review. The review has identified three categories of potential intervention for improving hand and arm coordination after stroke; functional therapy, biofeedback or electrical stimulation and robot or computerised training. In view of the limited availability of good quality evidence and lack of empirical data, this review does not draw a definitive conclusion for the second question regarding the effectiveness of interventions aimed at improving hand and arm coordination after stroke. Improvements in hand and arm coordination during reach to grasp were reported in four studies, whereas one study found no benefit. Two studies did not report specific effects of interventions for hand and arm coordination after stroke.



There is currently insufficient evidence to provide strong recommendations about the effect of interventions for improving hand and arm coordination during reach to grasp after stroke.


Randomised controlled trials of sufficient power with standardised outcome measures are needed to enable meta-analysis comparison in the future. Such studies should include both functional performance and detailed kinematic measures of hand and arm coordination.

© 2012 The Authors. International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare © 2012 The Joanna Briggs Institute.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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