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The Evidence Base of Neuropsychological Rehabilitation in Acquired Brain Impairment (ABI): How Good is the Research?

  • Michael Perdices (a1), Regina Schultz (a2), Robyn Tate (a3), Skye McDonald (a4), Leanne Togher (a5), Sharon Savage (a6), Kiri Winders (a7) and Kate Smith (a8)...

Abstract

In the context of evidence-based clinical practice (EBCP), the reliability of empirical data is largely determined by the methodological quality of research design. PsycBITE™ (Psychological Database of Brain Impairment Treatment Efficacy) is a web-based database listing all published, empirical reports on the effectiveness of nonpharmacological interventions for the psychological consequences of acquired brain impairment (ABI). The aim of this study was to survey the listings of PsycBITE™ and examine the methodological quality of the reports it contains. Reports listed in PsycBITE™ include systematic reviews (SRs), randomised controlled trials (RCTs), non-RCTs, case series (CSs) and single-subject designs (SSDs). They are indexed according to research design, neurological group, patient age group, target area and intervention type. The PEDro Scale is used to rate the methodological quality of RCTs, nonRCTs and CSs, with maximum obtainable methodological quality rating (MQR) of 10/10, 8/10 and 2/10 respectively. A search identified 1298 reports indexed in PsycBITE™. The largest proportion was SSDs (39%), followed by CSs (22%), RCTs (21%), non-RCTs (11%) and SRs (7%). The majority of reports was concerned with stroke (41%), traumatic brain injury (29%) and Alzheimer's and related dementias (22%). The most frequently investigated deficits were communication/language/speech disorders (24%); independent/self-care activities (19%); behaviour problems (17%); memory impairments (17%); anxiety, depression, stress, adjustment (15%). Approximately half of the RCTs, non-RCTs and CSs were rated for methodological quality. Mean MQR scores for RCTs, non-RCTs and CSs were 4.49, 2.85 and 1.15 respectively. While some PEDro criteria were met by a high proportion of RCTs and non-RCTs (≥ 70%), other criteria were only met by a small proportion of reports (as low as 1.6%). There was no significant difference in MQR scores between RCTs focusing on different neurological groups or target areas. Furthermore, there was no discernible improvement in MQR score for RCTs published over the last three decades. The methodological quality of studies investigating the efficacy of rehabilitation interventions in ABI has been consistently modest over several decades. This is largely attributable to poor adherence to fundamental tenets of research design, and requires urgent remediation. RCTs (and to a lesser extent, non-RCTs) are research methodologies which can potentially yield a high level of evidence, but only if they are adequately designed. PsycBITE™ has the facility to raise awareness of these issues and be instrumental in promoting EBCP in the field of ABI.

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Corresponding author

1Address for correspondence: Michael Perdices, PhD, Department of Neurology, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards NSW 2065, Australia.

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The Evidence Base of Neuropsychological Rehabilitation in Acquired Brain Impairment (ABI): How Good is the Research?

  • Michael Perdices (a1), Regina Schultz (a2), Robyn Tate (a3), Skye McDonald (a4), Leanne Togher (a5), Sharon Savage (a6), Kiri Winders (a7) and Kate Smith (a8)...

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