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J Neurol. 2014 Feb;261(2):251-8. doi: 10.1007/s00415-013-6910-6. Epub 2013 Apr 16.

The effectiveness of allied health care in patients with ataxia: a systematic review.

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Department of Neurology, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Many patients with cerebellar ataxia have serious disabilities in daily life, while pharmacological treatment options are absent. Therefore, allied health care is considered to be important in the management of these patients. The goal of this review is to evaluate scientific evidence for allied health care in cerebellar ataxia, to identify effective treatment strategies, and to give recommendations for clinical practice and further research. A systematic search for clinical trials concerning allied health care in cerebellar ataxias was conducted using the electronic databases of PubMed, Medline, Embase, Cinahl and Pedro, and references lists of articles, in the time period from 1980 up to and including December 2011 in English and Dutch. We identified 14 trials, of which the four best studies were formally of moderate methodological quality. There was a wide variation in disease entities and interventions. The combined data indicate that physical therapy may lead to an improvement of ataxia symptoms and daily life functions in patients with degenerative cerebellar ataxia (level 2), and in other diseases causing cerebellar ataxia (level 3). When added to physical therapy, occupational therapy might improve global functional status, and occupational therapy alone may diminish symptoms of depression (level 3). There are insufficient data for speech and language therapy. Despite the widespread use of allied health care interventions in cerebellar ataxia, there is a lack of good quality studies that have evaluated such interventions. We found some support for the implementation of physical therapy and occupational therapy, but more research is needed to develop recommendations for clinical practice.

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