Date Presented 04/21/2023

Wrist hand orthotic use after stroke is controversial, and the evidence is inconclusive. This study provides insight into therapists’ practice patterns and clinical reasoning with implications for entry-level and continuing education and practice.

Primary Author and Speaker: Shannon L. Scott

Additional Authors and Speakers: Natalie Dispoto, Tiani Zeigler, Morgan Wawrzyniak

Contributing Authors: Jillian Byrnes, Christina Carden, Julia Ford, Breannah Hade, Katy Hickman, Olivia Southworth, Annie Stiver

Wrist hand orthotics (WHO) are commonly used in practice poststroke for spasticity and contracture management despite inconclusive evidence of effectiveness1 and limits in survivor tolerance2. This study explored current practice patterns in the use of WHO poststroke and practitioners’ perceptions, experiences, and clinical reasoning to include use of evidence and practice guidelines. Using a mixed method design, quantitative data via survey (n=45) and qualitative data via semi-structured interviews (n=5) was simultaneously collected. Participants were recruited through use of professional social media platforms, discussion forums, and contacts. Data was descriptively and thematically analyzed, respectively. Mostly inpatient (31%) and outpatient (24%) occupational therapists (95%) from the northeast (69%) with greater than 10 years’ experience (45%) and entry level Masters degrees (50%) completed the survey. Interview participants’ (two with doctoral degrees and two with advanced training) experience ranged from .5 to 26 years. Survey results revealed that 22% of respondents frequently used WHO and when used, prefabricated static volar WHO were more commonly used. Respondents perceived WHO to be effective in managing soft-tissue shortening (64%) and contractures (55%) greater than spasticity (37%) though many were unsure of the evidence. Qualitative themes revealed variable practice patterns and no standard protocol, subjective outcomes, and factors such as reimbursement, practice setting/culture, and time constraints influenced WHO use. Factors such as client tolerance, fit/comfort, and independent use were key considerations especially with spasticity3 suggesting WHO may pose more harm than good for the neurological hand. Experience and advanced training in this study contributed to more evidence-based client-centered practice and custom WHO use implying that WHO use poststroke may require advanced training. Additionally, objective functional measures are needed.


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Andringa, A., van de Port, I. & Meijer, J. (2013). Long-term use of a static hand-wrist orthosis in chronic stroke patients: A pilot study. Stroke Research and Treatment., 2013, 1–5.

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