Virtual Reality Upper Limb Therapy for People With Spinal Cord Injury

Rehabilitation
Arm/hand function
Online since 3 January 2024, updated 47 days ago

About this trial

This study aims to test if the VR games could be a form of upper limb rehabilitation for people with arm/hand problems due to SCI while they are in hospital. Participants who have had a spinal cord in...

Included participants

Gender
All
Age
≥ 18 years
Injury level
C4 - C8
  • Severity (AIS)?
  • Time since injury
    All
    Healthy volunteers
    No
    C4-C8

    What’s involved

    Type

    Rehabilitation

    Details

    A spinal cord injury (SCI) impacts nearly every aspect of a person's life. People with SCI will have muscular paralysis and loss of sensory and autonomic function below the level of their injury. Immediately following injury, people with SCI require acute in-patient care, during which rehabilitation is started. Following an SCI, people are at risk of pressure ulcers, urinary tract infections, spasticity, autonomic dysreflexia, depression, neuropathic pain, difficulty breathing, and circulatory problems. The multitude of impairments following SCI are associated with lower quality of life. Reducing reliance on care and achieving higher levels of independence is a major goal for people with SCI. People with SCI can improve the motor power and therefore function of their paralysed limbs through rehabilitation. This enables people with SCI to carry out tasks which would otherwise require a carer. Dressing, bladder and bowel care, transferring in and out of a wheelchair, and feeding are activities that often require more assistance. The difficulty in carrying out these activities can be greatly reduced if people with SCI can recover function in the upper limbs. Even small improvements in limb function can have large effects on a people with SCI's independence. For people with tetraplegia, where the injury affects all four limbs, improving upper limb function is a major focus of rehabilitation. People with tetraplegia reported improvement in hand and arm function as their highest priority for improvement compared to other rehabilitation targets. Improvements in upper limb function can be achieved through Activity-Based Therapy (ABT). ABT refers to any intervention that involves high intensity, repetitive exercises which target activity-dependent plasticity in spinal circuits. The improvements from ABT in upper limb function have greater effects on quality of life when compared to traditional physical interventions targeted above the level of injury. Exercise can alleviate symptoms of some secondary conditions which can positively impact on quality of life. Physical inactivity is often reported by spinal cord injured people, with limited access to exercise being just one of many barriers to active lifestyles. There is a clear need to improve the accessibility of therapy for people with SCI. Virtual Reality (VR) technology used as an assistive device for upper limb rehabilitation has good potential for people with SCI during rehabilitation by facilitating greater adherence to therapy and increasing access to the most effective rehabilitation strategies for people with neurological disorders. However, currently only a few studies have investigated the use of VR in SCI rehabilitation of the upper limbs. Of these studies, most have reported positive outcomes. Three systematic reviews on the use of VR after spinal cord injury have been published in the last few years. Overall the findings suggest that VR training can improve motor function and balance, reduce symptoms such as pain, and improve aerobic function. However, there were consistent limitations reported including a relatively small number of studies, small experimental samples, and no consensus on the optimal treatment parameters or technology employed. Furthermore, there were no studies that evaluated the use of VR in the acute phase following SCI when there is most potential for recovery. VR can have positive psychological effects among people with an SCI such as increased self-confidence, motivation, and participation in therapy. ABT has been shown to improve function through neuromuscular recovery and increase participation in therapy. The principles of ABT which target motor improvement could be integrated into a VR intervention for upper limb rehabilitation, which could provide a promising and exciting option for people with SCI in early stages of recovery. There are challenges in the delivery of ABT, such as the cost associated with using assistive devices, resources required to train staff, difficulty achieving sufficient dosage, factors such as motivation to engage in therapy, and access to therapy equipment. These challenges could be overcome by collaborating with people with SCI and their carers at the design stage of an intervention to impart valuable expertise about their chronic conditions, experiences of the acute phase recovery immediately following injury, and ideas about how to better manage rehabilitation. This intervention has been developed using co-production, where end-users (people with SCI and SCI therapists) were involved at every stage of the development process. This process can produce interventions that are highly accepted and efficacious. The investigators have therefore developed a set of VR-based physical exercises for upper limb rehabilitation in collaboration with people with lived experience of tetraplegia and spinal cord injury specialists. VR will allow the participant to repeatedly experience engaging, fun, and motivating digital environments within which can be practised upper limb movements as an adjunct to standard upper limb rehabilitation. The aim of this randomised controlled feasibility study is to determine if this intervention is usable and acceptable for people with tetraplegia and therapists during acute rehabilitation.

    Potential benefits

    Main benefits

    Arm/hand function

    Additional benefits

    General health

    Good to know: Potential benefits are defined as outcomes that are being measured during and/or after the trial.

    Wings for Life supports SCITrialsFinder

    Wings for Life has proudly initiated, led and funded the new version of the SCI Trials Finder website. Wings for Life aims to find a cure for spinal cord injuries. The not-for-profit foundation funds world-class scientific research and clinical trials around the globe.

    Learn more

    • Trial recruitment status
    • Recruiting soon
    • Trial start date
    • 1 Feb 2024
    • Organisation
    • Glasgow Caledonian University
    • Trial recruitment status
    • Recruiting soon
    • Trial start date
    • 1 Feb 2024
    • Organisation
    • Glasgow Caledonian University

    Wings for Life supports SCITrialsFinder

    Wings for Life has proudly initiated, led and funded the new version of the SCI Trials Finder website. Wings for Life aims to find a cure for spinal cord injuries. The not-for-profit foundation funds world-class scientific research and clinical trials around the globe.

    Learn more