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Effects of a short outpatient rehabilitation treatment on disability of multiple sclerosis patients

A randomised controlled trial

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It is well known that neurorehabilitation can reduce disability or improve handicap of people with multiple sclerosis (MS). The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a short period (6 weeks) of a tailored, individualised outpatient rehabilitation program in people with progressive MS. A randomised-controlled trial was undertaken in patients with primary and secondary progressive MS referred to the Centro Sclerosi Multipla of Catania. One hundred and eleven patients were assessed at baseline and at 12 weeks with validated measures of disability (Functional Independence Measure (FIM)) and impairment (Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) and Functional Systems Scale). Of the 111, 58 were randomly assigned to the treatment group and 53 to the control group. All patients had been previously trained in a home exercise program. Both groups were well matched for age, sex, disease duration and severity, disability and quality of life (Short Form-36). At the end of 6 weeks patients allocated to the rehabilitation treatment group showed significant improvement in their level of disability compared with the control group,while the level of impairment did not change. Thirty-two patients of the treatment group and four of the control group improved on the FIM by two or more steps at 12 weeks (p<0.0001). An improvement by 1 EDSS step occurred in only two patients of the treatment group and in one patient of the control group. Benefits were maintained for a further six weeks. This study demonstrates that a short outpatient rehabilitation treatment improves disability of MS patients, without changing their impairment and confirms the effectiveness of rehabilitation in people with MS.

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Correspondence to Francesco Patti MD.

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Patti, F., Ciancio, M.R., Cacopardo, M. et al. Effects of a short outpatient rehabilitation treatment on disability of multiple sclerosis patients. J Neurol 250, 861–866 (2003).

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