Effects of virtual reality in the early-stage stroke rehabilitation: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Jie Hao, Zixuan Yao, Kimberly Harp, Dr Yeongjin Gwon, Zhen Chen, Ka Chun Siu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Virtual reality (VR) is an emerging technology and has shown promising outcomes in stroke rehabilitation. VR can create an enriched environment, facilitate task-specific training, and provide multimodal sensorimotor feedback to augment functional recovery by driving the experience-dependent plasticity, which is prominent in the early-stage after stroke. Purpose: This review aimed to systematically identify and examine the feasibility and effectiveness of VR intervention applied within one-month after stroke on functional outcomes of patients. Methods: Randomized controlled trials were searched across six databases published between 2000 and 2021. Two independent reviewers conducted study selection, data extraction, and quality assessment. Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) scale was used to evaluate the quality of included studies. Qualitative synthesis and meta-analysis were conducted to compare VR-based rehabilitation and conventional rehabilitation. Results: Seventeen randomized controlled trials were included in this review, and all of them meet the criteria for good quality. The results confirmed the feasibility of applying VR in early stroke rehabilitation. In the meta-analyses, there were no significant differences between VR and control on upper extremity function (SMD = 0.22, P = .10), Activities of Daily Living outcomes (SMD = 0.15, P = .11), balance (SMD = 0.18, P = .86), and cognition (SMD = 0.34, P = .06). Conclusion: VR is a feasible approach and demonstrates comparable effectiveness in functional outcomes with conventional rehabilitation in patients with stroke at the early-stage. Further research focusing on the application of VR in acute stroke survivors with adequate sample size, additional follow-up evaluation and valid outcome measures are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2569-2588
Number of pages20
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2023


  • Simulation
  • early rehabilitation
  • functional recovery
  • stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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