Edizioni Minerva Medica
BACKGROUND: Shoulder subluxation is a common secondary impairment of the upper limb following stroke. A range of supportive devices are used in rehabilitation to prevent shoulder subluxation, including hemi-slings and firm supports, such as arm troughs, however, there is little evidence regarding their efficacy. AIM: To determine whether a modified lap-tray during sitting and a triangular sling during standing is more effective than a hemi-sling in preventing shoulder subluxation, pain, contracture and upper limb activity limitation after stroke. DESIGN: A prospective, randomised trial with concealed allocation, assessor blinding and intention-to-treat analysis. SETTING: Three inpatient rehabilitation units in Australia and Norway. POPULATION: Forty-six acute stroke survivors within 3 weeks of stroke who were at risk of subluxation. METHOD: The experimental group used a modified lap-tray while sitting and a triangular sling while standing to support the affected arm for four weeks. The control group used a hemi-sling while sitting and standing. The primary outcome was amount of shoulder subluxation on X-ray. Secondary outcomes were upper limb activity, pain and contracture. RESULTS: There was no significant difference between groups in terms of shoulder subluxation (MD -3 mm, 95% CI -8 to 3). There was a trend for the experimental group to develop less pain at rest (MD -0.7 out of 10, 95% CI -2.2 to 0.8) and during shoulder external rotation (MD -1.7 out of 10, 95% CI -3.7 to 0.3) and a trend towards having less contracture of shoulder external rotation (MD -10 deg, 95% CI -22 to 2). There was no significant difference between groups in terms of other contractures and activity of the upper limb. CONCLUSION: A lap-tray during sitting combined with a triangular sling during standing is no more effective than a hemi-sling in preventing subluxation, pain, contracture and activity limitation in acute stroke survivors at risk of shoulder subluxation. CLINICAL REHABILITATION IMPACT: The use of a lap-tray during sitting and triangular sling during standing is not indicated as an alternative to the hemi-sling to prevent shoulder subluxation in patients after stroke, so alternative strategies with proven efficacy, such as electrical stimulation, should be considered.
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