Last Updated: 2007-09-27 19:22:41 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Occupational therapy focused on personal activities of daily living improves recovery from stroke and is effective in maintaining a patient’s independence, according to findings of a systematic review of randomized trials.

Previous research regarding rehabilitation therapies either did not evaluate specific benefits from occupational therapy, or else did not report treatment effects on patients’ ability to perform activities of daily living, Dr. Lynn Legg and associates note in the September 28th issue of BMJ Online.

Dr. Legg, at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary University in the UK, and associates identified nine randomized, controlled trials specifically addressing activities of daily living.

Included were a total 1258 participants, mean ages 55 to 87.5 years. Median time to follow-up was 6 months.

The pooled results showed that occupational therapy patients were significantly more independent in their performing their activities of daily living than patients who did not have occupational therapy (p = 0.01). They were also significantly less likely to deteriorate in functional abilities, become dependent, require institutional care, or die.

Dr. Legg and associates conclude that this type of focused occupational therapy can improve performance and reduce the risk of deterioration. "Focused occupational therapy should be available to everyone who has had a stroke," the research team advises.

The next step is to define patients most likely to benefit from occupational therapy, they say, and to examine the cost effectiveness of the intervention.

BMJ 2007.