Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in stroke rehabilitation: review of the current evidence and pitfalls

Francesco Fisicaro, Giuseppe Lanza, Alfio Antonio Grasso, Giovanni Pennisi, Rita Bella, Walter Paulus, Manuela Pennisi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Acute brain ischemia causes changes in several neural networks and related cortico-subcortical excitability, both in the affected area and in the apparently spared contralateral hemisphere. The modulation of these processes through modern techniques of noninvasive brain stimulation, namely repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), has been proposed as a viable intervention that could promote post-stroke clinical recovery and functional independence. This review provides a comprehensive summary of the current evidence from the literature on the efficacy of rTMS applied to different clinical and rehabilitative aspects of stroke patients. A total of 32 meta-analyses published until July 2019 were selected, focusing on the effects on motor function, manual dexterity, walking and balance, spasticity, dysphagia, aphasia, unilateral neglect, depression, and cognitive function after a stroke. Only conventional rTMS protocols were considered in this review, and meta-analyses focusing on theta burst stimulation only were excluded. Overall, both HF-rTMS and LF-rTMS have been shown to be safe and well-tolerated. In addition, the current literature converges on the positive effect of rTMS in the rehabilitation of all clinical manifestations of stroke, except for spasticity and cognitive impairment, where definitive evidence of efficacy cannot be drawn. However, routine use of a specific paradigm of stimulation cannot be recommended yet due to a significant level of heterogeneity of the studies in terms of protocols to be set and outcome measures that have to be used. Future studies need to preliminarily evaluate the most promising protocols before going on to multicenter studies with large cohorts of patients in order to achieve a definitive translation into daily clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTherapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019

Keywords

  • neuroplasticity
  • neurorehabilitation
  • noninvasive brain stimulation
  • stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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