Moreover, quality of life was significantly better two years after treatment. Improvements were seen in social participation, activities of daily living, and overall physical function, Wolf said.
Wolf said the restraint therapy can be used on about 30 percent of stroke patients -- or those with mild to moderate impairment. "People who will benefit are those who can begin to open their hand six weeks after the stroke," he said. "Extremity constraint-induced movement therapy can, over a short period of time, lead to improvements that are sustainable."
One stroke expert thinks the study results are impressive, but more research needs to be done before the technique is adopted widely.
"In stroke rehabilitation, we don't have a lot of things to offer these folks," said Dr. Michael W. O'Dell, acting chief of rehabilitation medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. "It's pretty remarkable that a treatment that was provided for two weeks, two years ago, is still having an effect on people's ability to function on a day-to-day basis."
O'Dell said it's important to note that the patients in the EXCITE trial did have some movement in the affected hand before the study began. "They were not the worst of the worst," he said. "But it's really encouraging that there is some possibility for further recovery."
O'Dell noted there are some drawbacks to extremity constraint-induced therapy. For one, insurance companies and Medicare won't pay for it. "It's too expensive," he said.
Also, the therapy is very frustrating for patients. "So, you have to have an incredibly motivated patient to do this," O'Dell said.
To learn more about stroke, visit the American Stroke Association.
All rights reserved