Rehabilitation specialists from Argentina’s Instituto de Investigaciones Neurológicas Raúl Carrea (FLENI) have published a systematic literature review of high-technology augmentative communication offerings for adults with post-stroke aphasia. The goal of this review is to synthesize findings from peer-reviewed reports of the uses of high-technology communication devices to enhance linguistic communication skills by adults with post-stroke aphasia.

The authors searched literature databases to flag 1,551 candidate articles from 1989 to 2014. These were compared against 3 inclusionary plus 7 exclusionary criteria to identify qualifying articles. The 30 articles so identified were analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively for reporting and discussion.

Review subjects comprised 100 individuals with post-stroke aphasia who were: (a) between 50-70 y/o, and (b) generally several years post-onset (M = 3.6, SD = 1.9). The technologies employed ran the gamut from: (i) specialized software running on desktop computers (n = 11),  to (ii) specialized software running on laptops or portable computers (n = 9), to (iii) dedicated devices manufactured especially for communication rehabilitation (n = 6), to (iv) apps available for downloading onto individuals’ personal mobile devices (n = 4). Most technologies were products from commercial companies, though a few were software from research settings. The review documents reports of prosthetic benefits ( employing AAC compensatory communication strategies) as well as reports of therapeutic benefits (i.e., gains in unaided communication).

Findings of the systematic review were broadly positive. In the words of the authors, “Overall, results indicated that individuals with chronic post-stroke aphasia showed improvements when a high-technology AAC intervention was used to enhance communicative skills using a compensatory therapy approach. …[T]he majority of studies reviewed her achieved clear intervention results, where positive or mixed outcomes were high (90%).”

The authors acknowledge two key challenges: (i) methodological diversity of the 30 studies, and (ii) relatively small sample sizes (n < 10) of most studies. They call on investigators to help address these issues in future research.

For further reading:  M.J. Russo, V. Prodan, N.N. Meda, et al.  2017. High-technology augmentative communication for adults with post-stroke aphasia: a systematic reviewExpert Review of Medical Devices14:5, 355-370.

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