Treatment of unawareness of deficits in patients with acquired brain injury: A systematic review

Anne-Claire Schrijnemaekers, Sanne M. J. Smeets, Rudolf W. H. M. Ponds, Caroline M. van Heugten, Sascha Rasquin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To review and evaluate the effectiveness and methodological quality of available treatment methods for unawareness of deficits after acquired brain injury (ABI). Methods: Systematic literature search for treatment studies for unawareness of deficits after ABI. Information concerning study content and reported effectiveness was extracted. Quality of the study reports and methods were evaluated. Results: A total of 471 articles were identified; 25 met inclusion criteria. 16 were uncontrolled or single-case studies. Nine were of higher quality: 2 randomized controlled trials, 5 single case experimental designs, 1 single-case design with pre- and posttreatment measurement, and 1 quasi-experimental controlled design. Overall, interventions consisted of multiple components including education and multimodal feedback on performance. Five of the 9 high-quality studies reported a positive effect of the intervention on unawareness in patients with some knowledge of their impairments. Effect sizes ranged from questionable to large. Conclusion: Patients with ABI may improve their awareness of their disabilities and possibly attain a level at which they personally experience problems when they occur. At present, because of lack of evidence, no recommendation can be made for treatment approaches for persons with severe impairment of self-awareness in the chronic phase of ABI. We recommended developing and evaluating theory-driven interventions specifically focused on disentangling the components of treatment that are successful in improving awareness. High-quality intervention studies are urgently needed using controlled designs (eg, single-case experimental designs, randomized controlled trials) based on a theoretic perspective with a detailed description of the content of the intervention and suitable outcome measures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E9-E30
JournalJournal of head trauma rehabilitation
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes

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