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Effectiveness of virtual reality interventions of the upper limb in children and young adults with cerebral palsy: A systematic review with meta-analysis.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the characteristics and the effectiveness of virtual reality systems on upper limb impairments in children and young adults with cerebral palsy.

DATA SOURCES: An electronic search was conducted on PubMed, PEDro, Web of Science, Central, and EMBASE.

METHODS: The protocol of this review was prospectively registered in the PROSPERO database (CRD42022302271). Randomized controlled trials that tested the effects of virtual reality-based interventions on the upper limb of participants with cerebral palsy were included. The methodological quality of the studies was measured by the PEDro scale. The certainty of the evidence was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation. The data of the studies were analyzed in meta-analysis and presented in forest plots and narrative synthesis.

RESULTS: Twenty-two studies involving 746 participants were included. Ten different virtual reality systems were used in the interventions, of which six were designed specifically for rehabilitation and four commercial video games. We found an effect in favor of virtual reality when it was used in combination with conventional therapy for upper limb activity (SMD = 0.65; 95% CI (0.19 to 1.11)). However, the certainty of the evidence of the comparisons ranged from very low to low.

CONCLUSION: Virtual reality seems to be an effective tool for upper limb activity in children and young adults with cerebral palsy. Nevertheless, future studies should present a better methodological quality, a larger sample size, and well-defined rehabilitation programs to reduce the inconsistency of the evidence in this domain.

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