Telerehabilitation using virtual reality task can improve balance in patients with stroke

The aim of telerehabilitation is an extension of the rehabilitation process on patients’ home. The study also compares the balance training in clinical environment with the telerehabilitation approach when the physiotherapists and physicians can follow the progress remotely. This paper presents the preliminary study of the pilot project with virtual reality (VR)-based tasks for dynamic standing frame supported balance training. Six patients with stroke took part in the study. The patients performed the balance training 3 weeks, 2 weeks in the clinical settings and 1 week in the home environment, five times a week, and each time for up to 20 minutes. Objective effectiveness was demonstrated by parameters as track time, number of collisions and the clinical instruments Berg Balance Scale (BBS), Timed Up & Go (TUG), 10-m walk test and standing on the unaffected and affected extremity. The outcomes were compared to the balance training group without VR and telerehabilitation support. A 2-way ANOVA was used to explore the differences between the both stroke groups. In patients who were subject to VR supported balance training, the BBS demonstrated improvement for 15%, the TUG for 29%, the 10-m walk for 26%, stance time on the affected and unaffected extremity for 200 and 67%, respectively. The follow-up illustrated that the patients retained the gained functional improvement. The VR task performance time and number of collisions decreased to 45 and 68%, respectively. Besides, no statistical differences were found between the telerehabilitation approach with VR supported balance training and conventional balance training in clinical settings either regarding the overall mean level or regarding the mean improvement.

The telerehabilitation approach in VR supported balance training improved balance in stroke patients and had similar effect on patients’ postural functional improvement as conventional balance training in clinical settings. However, when balance training is continued in the patient’s home instead of the hospital, it would eventually decrease the number of outpatients’ visits, reduce related costs and facilitate treatment of larger number of patients.