Effectiveness of interventions to improve therapy adherence in people with upper limb conditions: A systematic review

Tanya Cole, Luke Robinson, Lorena Romero, Lisa O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Study Design: Systematic review. Introduction: Patient adherence to orthosis wear and/or prescribed exercises improves functional outcome after acute injury and can prevent deformities, contractures, and reinjury of tissues. This is the first systematic review to review the evidence of the effectiveness of interventions to improve treatment adherence in children and adults with acute or chronic upper limb injuries or conditions. Purpose of the Study: The purpose of this study is to establish the effectiveness of interventions to improve hand therapy adherence in people with upper limb conditions and to report on outcome measures used when reporting adherence. Methods: A literature search of MEDLINE (OVID), Embase (OVID), CENTRAL (OVID), CINAHL (EBSCO), and EmCare (OVID) (from inception to March 2017) was undertaken. Studies were selected if they met the following inclusion criteria: clinical trials; in adults or children with any injury or condition affecting the upper limb including acute trauma and injury; chronic and acquired musculoskeletal conditions; and neurological conditions. Two independent assessors rated the study quality and risk of bias using the Cochrane Collaboration tool for assessing the risk of bias. Results: Eight studies met the inclusion criteria. Study quality ranged from 3 to 6 out of 7 points on the Cochrane risk of bias tool. There were 4 categories of intervention for improving adherence: orthosis/cast material/design; orthosis wear schedule; patient education mode for home exercise programs; and behavioral approaches. Due to heterogeneity of condition acuity, interventions, and outcomes reported, it was not possible to pool the results from all studies. Therefore, a narrative best evidence synthesis was undertaken. There is weak evidence from a very small number of trials that orthosis/cast material has no influence on treatment adherence in acute or chronic conditions and mode of patient education (audio-visual vs written) has no effect in acute conditions. There is low-to-moderate quality of evidence in support of behavioral interventions for achieving treatment adherence in chronic rheumatoid arthritis. Conclusion: Behavioral approaches that encourage self-efficacy are likely to be useful in achieving treatment adherence in populations with chronic upper limb conditions. There is insufficient evidence for other interventions aimed at improving adherence in acute upper limb injuries and conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-183.e2
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hand Therapy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • Acute
  • Adherence
  • Chronic
  • Compliance
  • Hand
  • Upper limb

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