Effectiveness of allied health therapy in the symptomatic management of progressive supranuclear palsy: a systematic review

Erica Tilley, James McLoughlin, Simon Koblar, Sebastian Doeltgen, Cindy Stern, Sarahlouise White, Micah Peters

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    BACKGROUND: Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is an adult onset neurodegenerative condition associated with mobility, balance, speech, swallowing, vision and cognitive changes. The condition is diagnosed using the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the Society of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (SPSP) criteria. Therapeutic interventions for PSP are important, and a healthcare team should include a physiotherapist, occupational therapist and speech therapist. Mobility, speech and swallowing problems are commonly experienced, and aspiration pneumonia is the leading cause of death. A preliminary search of the literature has indicated that beyond small case series, there is very little evidence to guide specific allied health therapies in PSP. Many strategies for optimizing independence and function for PSP predominately rely on data extrapolated from the study of Parkinson's disease.

    OBJECTIVES: The objective of this review was to examine the effectiveness of physical, occupational and speech therapy interventions in the symptomatic management of PSP.

    INCLUSION CRITERIA TYPES OF PARTICIPANTS: This review included participants with PSP as per the NINDS and the SPSP criteria, aged over 40 years of age from all community and clinical settings.

    TYPES OF INTERVENTIONS: This review included studies evaluating any allied health therapy that addressed mobility, vision, swallowing, communication or cognitive/neuropsychiatric difficulties experienced by patients with PSP. Studies examining interventions within the current scope of practice, and emerging interventions (non-invasive brain stimulation therapy) were eligible for inclusion.

    TYPES OF COMPARATOR: The effectiveness of interventions of interest was compared with usual care and/or baseline measurements.

    OUTCOMES: Outcomes of interest included the degree of change, or no change, in the symptoms experienced by patients with PSP relevant to allied health. These included difficulties with mobility, vision, swallowing, communication and cognition.

    TYPES OF STUDIES: All types of quantitative study designs published in English from the time of development of the NINDS and the SPSP criteria in 1996-2014 were considered for inclusion.

    SEARCH STRATEGY: A broad range of synonyms for PSP and a three-step search strategy was utilized to identify possible published and unpublished studies from 11 different databases. An initial limited search via MEDLINE (PubMed), CINAHL, Health Informit, PsycINFO, PEDRO, OTSeeker and SpeechBite was undertaken followed by analysis of the text words contained in the title and abstract, and of the index terms used to describe the article. A second search using all identified keywords and index terms was then undertaken across all included databases. Third, hand-searching was conducted and the reference list of all identified reports and articles was searched for additional studies.

    METHODOLOGICAL QUALITY: Critical appraisal was conducted by two independent reviewers using standardized instruments.

    DATA EXTRACTION: Quantitative data were extracted from articles included in the review using standardized data extraction tools.

    DATA SYNTHESIS: As the quantitative articles examined different interventions, pooling of data was not appropriate. Instead, the findings were presented in narrative summary and tabular form.

    RESULTS: Following methodological appraisal, six studies were included in the review. Aside from one small quasi-randomized control study, most studies were small case series and one was a case report. Five of the six studies examined the effectiveness of a range of different physiotherapy rehabilitation programs targeting gait, balance and physical capability, with one study also targeting gaze control. The sixth study examined non-invasive brain stimulation in improving gait and midline symptoms in PSP. No studies examined the effectiveness of occupational therapy or speech therapy interventions in PSP.

    CONCLUSIONS: Research into the effectiveness of allied health therapeutic interventions for PSP symptoms is in its infancy. This review found preliminary evidence to support the use of various physiotherapy rehabilitation programs to improve balance, gait and gaze control in people affected by PSP. Further research is urgently required to identify effective interventions to manage mobility, vision, swallowing, communication and cognitive/neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with this devastating condition.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)148-195
    Number of pages48
    JournalJBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


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