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Effects of Motor Imagery as a Complementary Resource on the Rehabilitation of Stroke Patients: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials

      Abstract

      Background

      Stroke is the second leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability worldwide. Motor imagery is a technique that can be utilized in the rehabilitation process to improve the lives of patients with a functional disability acquired by this pathology.

      Aim

      To evaluate the effects of motor imagery as a complementary intervention for the rehabilitation of stroke patients.

      Methods

      We conducted a systematic review in MEDLINE/PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and PEDro databases. We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that used motor imagery as a complementary resource for the rehabilitation of patients affected by stroke, who had motor function and functional independence as outcomes.

      Results

      Of the 1,473 studies found, ten RCTs were included. Regarding the interventions, motor imagery was associated with traditional rehabilitation, virtual reality, physical practice, structured progressive circuit class therapy, and electromyography. The upper and lower extremity performance were accessed through the Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA) and gait speed, respectively. Although the practice of motor imagery at least twice a week during three weeks showed to be effective in improving the motor performance of post-stroke patients, the studies’ protocols present a high heterogeneity, with training session times lasting between 30 to 180 minutes and a post-stroke invention window of one to 12 months.

      Conclusions

      Motor imagery has been shown to be an efficacious technique in the treatment of post-stroke patients when used as a complement to traditional rehabilitation techniques. However, greater standardization of interventions and studies with higher methodological quality are required to determine further conclusions.

      Key Words

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