Constraint-Induced Therapy

Number: 0665


Aetna considers constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) medically necessary for the treatment upper limb hemiparesis in persons with stroke who have at least 10 degrees of active wrist and finger extension, and who have no sensory and cognitive deficits.

Aetna considers CIMT experimental and investigational for the treatment of motor disorders caused by the following indications (not an all-inclusive list) because its effectiveness for these indications has not been established.

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Congenital hemiplegia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Traumatic brain injury

Aetna considers constraint-induced aphasia/language therapy, alone or in combination with transcranial magnetic stimulation, experimental and investigational for the treatment of post-stroke aphasia or other indications because its effectiveness has not been established.


Constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT), also known as forced use movement therapy, is a therapeutic approach to rehabilitation of movement after stroke.  It has purportedly been demonstrated to improve motor function in patients following cerebro-vascular accident (CVA).  The intensity and schedule of delivery of CIMT is different from that of traditional physical rehabilitation approaches.  Constraint-induced movement therapy entails a family of rehabilitation techniques with an underlying goal of inducing individuals with stroke to markedly increase the use of a more-affected upper extremity (UE) for many hours a day over a period of 2 to 3 weeks.  The principal therapy involves constraining movements of the less-affected arm with a sling for 90 % of waking hours for the duration of therapy, while intensively training use of the more-affected arm.

Constraint-induced movement therapy has been employed for patients with chronic and sub-acute CVA, chronic traumatic brain injury, incomplete spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, fractured hip, phantom limb pain, as well as musicians with focal hand dystonia.  Although the improvement in motor function produced by CIMT in chronic stroke patients has been postulated to be associated with a shift in laterality of motor cortical activation toward the undamaged hemisphere, the exact mechanisms supporting rehabilitation-induced motor recovery are unclear.

In a randomized study (n = 66), van der Lee et al (1999) reported a small improvement in motor impairment in patients with chronic hemiparesis treated with CIMT.  In another randomized study (n = 20), Dromerick et al (2000) found that CIMT resulted in a marked improvement in motor impairment.

Pierce et al (2004) examined the effectiveness of a program of traditional outpatient neurological rehabilitation that included home forced use.  In total, 17 patients with chronic stroke and 1 patient with sub-acute stroke (mean time post-stroke = 27.6 months) completed an individualized program consisting of seven 2-hour treatment sessions composed of 1 hour of occupational therapy and 1 hour of physical therapy.  Therapy sessions were completed over a 2- to 3-week period and included instruction on the use of a restraining mitt at home during functional activities.  The authors stated that the preliminary results suggested that the forced-use component of CIMT may be effective when applied within a traditional outpatient rehabilitation program.

In an observer-blinded randomized control trial (n = 69), Suputtitada et al (2004) reported that CIMT of unaffected upper extremities has an advantage over conservative treatment for chronic stroke patients.  The CIMT group received 6 hours of daily affected-upper-extremity training and restrained unaffected upper extremities for 5 days per week, totally 2 weeks.  The control group received bimanual-upper-extremity training by conservative neuro-developmental technique without restrained unaffected upper extremities for 2 weeks.  These authors concluded that CIMT may be an effective technique of improving motor activity and exhibiting learned non-use.

In a single-blinded randomized controlled trial, Page et al (2004) determined the effectiveness of a modified CIMT protocol for patients with chronic stroke.  A total of 17 patients who experienced stroke more than 1 year before study entry and who had upper-limb hemiparesis and learned non-use enrolled in this study.  Seven patients participated in structured therapy sessions emphasizing more affected arm use in valued activities, 3 times a week for 10 weeks.  Their less affected arms were also restrained 5 days/week for 5 hours (modified CIMT).  Four patients received regular therapy with similar contact time to modified CIMT.  Six patients received no therapy (control).  These investigators concluded that modified CIMT may be an effective method of improving function and use of the more affected arms of chronic stroke patients.

The findings of Suputtitada et al (2004) and Page et al (2004) are in agreement with the observations of Van Peppen et al (2004) and Yen et al (2005).  Van Peppen and colleagues noted that there is strong evidence for therapies that are focused on functional training of the upper limb such as CIMT in improving functional outcomes after stroke; while Yen and associates reported that modified CIMT is useful in improving the function of the affected upper extremity in stroke patients (n = 30).  Subjects in the modified CIMT group received a 2-week course of modified CIMT that entailed massed training of the affected arm without any physical restriction of the intact one.

Stein (2004) stated that younger stroke patients appear to have a greater ability to recover from stroke and are likely to benefit substantially from treatments that facilitate plasticity-mediated recovery.  The use of new exercise treatments, such as CIMT, robot-aided rehabilitation, and partial body weight supported treadmill training are being studied intensively, and are likely to ultimately be incorporated into standard post-stroke rehabilitation.

Moreover, in a randomized controlled pilot study (n = 10), Page et al (2005) compared the effectiveness of modified CIMT to traditional rehabilitation in acute stroke patients exhibiting upper limb hemiparesis (less than 14 days post-stroke).  Five patients were administered modified CIT, consisting of structured therapy emphasizing more affected arm use in valued activities 3 days/week for 10 weeks and less affected arm restraint 5 days/week for 5 hours.  Five other patients received half sessions of traditional motor rehabilitation for the affected arm, which included affected limb manual dexterity exercises and stretching, as well as compensatory strategies with the unaffected limb.  The traditional rehabilitation regimens occurred 3 days/week for 10 weeks.  These researchers concluded that modified CIMT is a promising regimen for improving more affected limb use and function in acute CVA.  However, larger confirmatory studies need to be performed.

The Veterans Health Administration's clinical practice guideline for the management of stroke rehabilitation (2003) noted that the use of CIMT should be considered for a select group of patients, i.e., those with 20 degrees of wrist extension and 10 degrees of finger extension, who have no sensory and cognitive deficits.

Guidelines from the British Intercollegiate Stroke Working Party state that “[c]onstraint-induced therapy to increase the use of the affected arm should be considered in patients with at least 10 degrees of active wrist and finger extension, who are more than a year post-stroke and who can walk independently without an aid.”

Ottawa Panel Guidelines (2006) state that "there is sufficient evidence to recommend the use of CIMT during the acute, subacute, or chronic phases of rehabilitation for improving dexterity, motor function, and functional status in stroke patients capable of some active finger and wrist extension."

Although CIMT has been demonstrated to provide a small positive effect on upper limb function in patients who require upper limb training for hemiplegia following stroke, a systematic evidence review (Lannin et al, 2005) has questioned the statistical and clinical significance of this effect.  The systematic evidence review also notes that existing studies have only compared the effectiveness of CIMT to compensatory or bimanual training techniques, and not to techniques designed to practice re-training isolated active movement in the hemiplegic arm.

In a systematic review of randomized controlled trials on CIMT following stroke, Hakkennes and Keating (2005) stated that results indicate that CIMT may improve upper limb function following stroke for some patients when compared to alternative or no treatment.  The authors stated that rigorous evaluation of CIMT using well-designed and adequately powered trials is required to evaluate the efficacy of different protocols on different stroke populations and to assess impact on quality of life, cost and patient/care-giver satisfaction.

Constraint-induced movement therapy is being investigated for use in other conditions, including cerebral palsy (CP).

In a randomized, controlled study, Taub et al (2004) evaluated the applicability of CIMT to young children with CP (n = 18, aged 7 to 96 months).  Patients were randomly assigned to receive either pediatric CIMT or conventional treatment.  Pediatric CIMT involved promoting increased use of the more-affected arm and hand by intensive training (using shaping) of the more-impaired upper extremity for 6 hours/day for 21 consecutive days coupled with bi-valved casting of the child's less-affected upper extremity for that period.  Patients were followed for 6 months.  The authors found that pediatric CIMT produced major and sustained improvement in motoric function in the young children with hemiparesis.  The results of this trial are promising, but its finding needs to be validated by studies with larger sample size and longer follow-up to ensure that gains that might occur persist for over 2 years as proposed by Winstein et al (2003).

In a review of CIMT and forced use in children with hemiplegia, Charles and Gordon (2005) stated that while both forced use and CIMT appear to be promising for improving hand function in children with hemiplegia, the data are limited.  Substantially more work must be performed before this approach can be advocated for general clinical use.

In an open-label, pilot study (n = 6), Tuite and colleagues (2005) reported that CIMT did not produce any substantial or consistent kinematic improvements in the affected limb of patients with Parkinson's disease (Hoehn and Yahr stage II to III).

In a pilot study (n = 9), Naylor and Bower (2005) assessed the effectiveness of modified CIMT in young children with hemiplegia.  Assessment was at entry to the study and subsequently at 4-weekly intervals.  A 4-week baseline period with no hand treatment, controlling for maturation, was followed by a 4-week treatment period and a second 4-week period with no hand treatment to measure carry-over.  Treatment consisted of twice-weekly 1-hour sessions of structured activities with a therapist and a home program for non-treatment days.  Only verbal instruction and gentle restraint of the unaffected arm were used to encourage use of the affected arm.  Patients (6 males, 3 females; median age of 31 months, range of 21 to 61 months) presenting with congenital spastic hemiplegia (5 right side, 4 left side) were involved in the study.  Changes in hand function were evaluated with the Quality of Upper Extremity Skills Test.  Improvement was seen throughout the study with statistical significance, using the Wilcoxon signed rank test, of 0.01 immediately after treatment.  Results of this pilot study suggested that this modification of CIMT may be an effective way of treating young children with hemiplegia.  The authors noted that future work is planned to consolidate and develop these results.

In a single-blinded, randomized, controlled study (n = 22), Charles and colleagues (2006) examined the effectiveness of CIMT, modified to be child-friendly, in children with hemiplegic CP.  Patients (8 females, 14 males; mean age of 6 years and  8 months; range of 4 to 8 years) were randomized to either an intervention group (n = 11) or a delayed treatment control group (n = 11).  Children wore a sling on their non-involved upper limb for 6 hours per day for 10 out of 12 consecutive days and were engaged in play and functional activities.  Children in the treatment group demonstrated improved movement efficiency and dexterity of the involved upper extremity, which were sustained through the 6-month evaluation period, as measured by the Jebsen-Taylor Test of Hand Function and fine motor-subtests of the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency (p < 0.05 in both cases).  Initial severity of hand impairment and testing compliance were strong predictors of improvement.  Care-givers reported significant increases in involved limb frequency of use and quality of movement.  However, there was no change in strength, sensibility, or muscle tone (p > 0.05 in all cases).  Results of this study suggested that for a carefully selected subgroup of children with hemiplegic CP, CIMT modified to be child-friendly, appears to be effective in improving movement efficiency of the involved upper extremity.

It is interesting to note that the children in the control group who subsequently received CIMT did not improve after the intervention.  There was no difference between the pre-test and 6-month follow-up scores for this group before cross-over, thus, a ceiling effect is unlikely.  The authors stated that overall CIMT improved involved arm and hand function in a select group of children with hemiplegic CP.  However, this intervention may not be advisable for all children with hemiplegia.  The child's age and severity of hand function need to be considered.  Determining if forced-use is more appropriate for some ages and CIMT more appropriate for others, as well as determining the optimal dose response and potential adverse effects, is also important.

In a Cochrane review on the use of CIMT in the treatment of the upper limb in children with hemiplegic CP, Hoare et al (2007) found a significant treatment effect using modified CIMT in a single trial.  A positive trend favoring CIMT and forced-use was also demonstrated.  The authors concluded that given the limited evidence, the use of CIMT, modified CIMT and forced-use should be considered experimental in children with hemiplegic CP.  They noted that further research using adequately powered randomized controlled trials, rigorous methodology and valid and reliable outcome measures is essential to provide higher level support of the effectiveness of CIMT for children with hemiplegic CP.

A systematic evidence review by Huang and colleagues (2009) concluded that evidence demonstrated an increased frequency of use of the upper extremity following CIMT for children with hemiplegic CP.  The author found, however, that the critical threshold for intensity that constituted an adequate dose could not be determined from the available research.  A total of 21 studies were included in the review (n = 168, range of 1 to 41): 5 randomized controlled trials (RCTs; n = 114); 2 pretest post-test design with control group (n = 16); 3 1-group pretest post-test designs (n = 27); 3 single-subject studies (n = 11); and 8 case report designs (n = 11).  The RCTs and pretest post-test study designs had validity scores between 7 and 11 out of 16.  The 2 1-group designs that were assessed had scores of 5 and 7 out of 11.  Study duration ranged from 1 week to 18 months.  Four studies allowed computation of effect size and 1 additional study provided effect size (eta values) within the paper.  One of these studies reported 5 outcome measures at the body functions and structure level of which one (Modified Ashworth Scale – shoulder) was statistically significant (p < 0.05).  These 5 studies reported a total of 14 different activity level outcomes of which 5 were statistically significant (p < 0.05): Caregiver Functional Use Survey -- How frequently (1 study); Assisting Hand Assessment (one study); Emerging Behaviour Scale (1 study); Pediatric Motor Activity Log – Amount of use (1 study); and WeeFIM Self-Care (1 study).  All significant effect size values were medium to large (d = 0.6 to 1.16).  The other 16 studies reported positive outcomes in fine motor and functional activities post treatment and up to 12 months follow-up.  A critique of this systematic evidence review by the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (2010) noted that the primary study sizes were small and the conclusions of this systematic evidence review were based on a small number of good-quality studies.  The CRD critique concluded: "Given the uncertainties around the review methodologies used, potential that relevant studies were missed and paucity and variability in the evidence presented, the authors conclusions are unlikely to be reliable."

Mark and colleagues (2008) examined if CIMT may benefit chronic upper extremity hemiparesis in progressive multiple sclerosis (MS).  A total of 5 patients with progressive MS, who had chronic upper extremity hemiparesis and evidence for learned non-use of the paretic limb in the life situation, underwent 30 hours of repetitive task training and shaping for the paretic limb over 2 to 10 consecutive weeks, along with physical restraint of the less-affected arm and a "transfer package" of behavioral techniques to reinforce treatment adherence.  Subjects showed significantly improved spontaneous, real-world limb use at post-treatment and 4 weeks post-treatment, along with improved fatigue ratings and maximal movement ability displayed in a laboratory motor test.  The authors concluded that these findings suggested for the first time that slowly progressive MS may benefit from CIMT.  Moreover, they stated that further studies are needed to determine the retention of treatment responses.

Sakzewski and co-workers (2009) systematically reviewed the effectiveness of non-surgical upper-limb therapeutic interventions for children with congenital hemiplegia.  The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Medline, CINAHL, AMED, Embase, PsycINFO, and Web of Science were searched up to July 2008.  Data sources were randomized or quasi-randomized trials and systematic reviews.  A total of 12 studies and 7 systematic reviews met the selection criteria.  Trials had strong methodological quality (Physiotherapy Evidence Database [PEDro] scale greater than or equal to 5), and systematic reviews rated strongly (AMSTAR [Assessment of Multiple Systematic Reviews] score greater than or equal to 6).  Four interventions were identified: (i) intra-muscular botulinum toxin A (Botox) combined with upper-limb training; (ii) CIMT; (iii) hand-arm bi-manual intensive training; and (iv) neurodevelopmental therapy.  Data were pooled for upper-limb, self-care, and individualized outcomes.  There were small-to-medium treatment effects favoring intra-muscular Botox and occupational therapy, neurodevelopmental therapy and casting, CIMT, and hand-arm bi-manual intensive training on upper-limb outcomes.  There were large treatment effects favoring intra-muscular Botox and upper-limb training for individualized outcomes.  No studies reported participation outcomes.  The authors concluded that no one treatment approach seems to be superior; however, Botox injections provide a supplementary benefit to a variety of upper-limb-training approaches.  They stated that additional research is needed to justify more-intensive approaches such as CIMT and hand-arm bi-manual intensive training.

In a prospective, repeated-measures design study, Brunner and colleagues (2011) examined eligibility for modalities such as CIMT and modified CIMT (mCIMT) in the sub-acute phase after stroke and defined the share of patients who should be offered this treatment.  A total of 100 consecutive patients with arm paresis 1 to 2 weeks post-stroke were screened.  Eligible for CIMT were patients who were cognitively intact, medically stable, and able to extend the wrist and 3 fingers 10° as a lower limit.  The active range of motion was registered, and motor function was assessed by the Action Research Arm Test (ARAT) and the Nine Hole Peg Test at 1 to 2 weeks, 4 weeks, and 3 months post stroke.  From 100 patients, 54 were excluded from motor assessment, mostly due to cognitive impairments.  Of the remaining 46 patients, 21 (46 %) were eligible according to motor function of the hand at 1 to 2 weeks post-stroke, whereas in the other patients motor function was either too good or too poor.  The share of patients eligible declined to 31 % after 4 weeks and 15 % after 3 months.  Within 3 months, 60 % reached reasonable dexterity, expressed by an ARAT score greater than or equal to 51, all receiving standard rehabilitation.  The authors concluded that results indicate that eligibility for CIMT or mCIMT should not be considered before 4 weeks post-stroke because much improvement in arm function was shown to occur during the first month post-stroke with standard rehabilitation.

In a systematic review, Nijland et al (2011) stated that CIMT is a commonly used intervention to improve upper limb function after stroke.  However, the effectiveness of CIMT and its optimal dosage during acute or sub-acute stroke is still under debate.  To examine the literature on the effects of CIMT in acute or sub-acute stroke.  A literature search was performed to identify RCTs; studies with the same outcome measure were pooled by calculating the mean difference.  Separate quantitative analyses for high-intensity and low-intensity CIMT were applied when possible.  Five RCTs were included, comprising 106 participants.  The meta-analysis demonstrated significant mean differences in favor of CIMT for the Fugl-Meyer arm, the Action Research Arm Test, the Motor Activity Log, Quality of Movement and the Grooved Pegboard Test.  Non-significant mean difference in favor of CIMT were found for the Motor Activity Log, Amount of Use.  Separate analyses for high-intensity and low-intensity CIMT resulted in significant favorable mean differences for low-intensity CIMT for all outcome measures, in contrast to high-intensity CIMT.  This meta-analysis demonstrated a trend toward positive effects of high-intensity and low-intensity CIMT in acute or sub-acute stroke, but also suggests that low-intensity CIMT may be more beneficial during this period than high-intensity CIMT.  However, these results were based on a small number of studies.  Therefore, they concluded that more trials are needed applying different doses of therapy early after stroke and a better understanding is needed about the different time windows in which underlying mechanisms of recovery operate.

Constraint-induced aphasia therapy (CIAT) is an intensive language training program. According to the American Stroke Association (2006), this short-term therapy takes the 3 principles of CIMT and applies them to speech therapy.  In speech therapy, constraint means avoiding the use of compensatory strategies such as gesturing, drawing, writing, etc.; forced use means communicating by talking; and massed practice means 2 to 4 hours of speech therapy a day.  Preliminary investigations suggested that these principles may be effective in aphasia rehabilitation, but research is still very early.  Thus, CIAT is provided in a communicative environment constraining patients to practice systematically speech acts with which they have difficulty.  It has been used in the treatment of chronic aphasia.

Szaflarski and colleagues (2008) stated that CIAT offers potential benefits to individuals with history of aphasia-producing ischemic stroke.  In a pilot study, these investigators implemented the original German CIAT protocol, refined the treatment program, and attempted to confirm its effectiveness in patients with chronic aphasia.  They translated and modified the original CIAT protocol to include a hierarchy of individual skill levels for semantic, syntactic, and phonological language production, while constraining non-use behaviors.  A total of 3 male subjects with moderate-to-severe post-stroke aphasia received CIAT 3 to 4 hours/day for 5 consecutive days.  Pre- and post-testing included formal language evaluation, linguistic analysis of story retell, and mini-Communication Activity Log (mini-CAL).  Substantial improvements in comprehension and verbal skills were noted in 2 subjects with an increase in the total number of words (31 % and 95 %) and in number of utterances for story retell task (57 % and 75 %).  All subjects reported an improvement on at least 1 linguistic measure.  No subjective improvements on mini-CAL were noted by any of the subjects.  The authors concluded that given that the duration of treatment was only 1 week, these linguistic improvements in post-stroke aphasia subjects were remarkable.  The results indicated that the CIAT protocol used in this study may be a useful tool in language restoration following stroke. The authors stated that these preliminary findings should be confirmed in a larger, randomized study.

Cherney and associates (2008) summarized evidence for intensity of treatment and constraint-induced language therapy (CILT) on measures of language impairment and communication activity/participation in individuals with stroke-induced aphasia.  A systematic search of the aphasia literature using 15 electronic databases (e.g., PubMed, CINAHL) identified 10 studies meeting inclusion/exclusion criteria.  A review panel evaluated studies for methodological quality.  Studies were characterized by research stage (i.e., discovery, efficacy, effectiveness, cost-benefit/public policy research), and effect sizes (ESs) were calculated wherever possible.  In chronic aphasia, studies provided modest evidence for more intensive treatment and the positive effects of CILT.  In acute aphasia, 1 study evaluated high-intensity treatment positively; no studies examined CILT.  Four studies reported discovery research, with quality scores ranging from 3 to 6 of 8 possible markers.  Five treatment efficacy studies had quality scores ranging from 5 to 7 of 9 possible markers.  One study of treatment effectiveness received a score of 4 of 8 possible markers.  The authors concluded that although modest evidence exists for more intensive treatment and CILT for individuals with stroke-induced aphasia, the results of this review should be considered preliminary.

Allen et al (2012) stated that aphasia effects up to 38 % of acute stroke patients.  For many of these individuals, this condition persists far beyond the acute phase.  These researchers evaluated the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions for aphasia initiated more than 6 months post stroke.  A literature search was conducted for articles in which aphasia treatments were initiated more than 6 months post stroke.  Searches were conducted in multiple databases including MEDLINE, Scopus, CINAHL, and EMBASE.  A total of 21 RCTs met the inclusion criteria.  There is good evidence to suggest that the use of computer-based treatments, constraint-induced therapy, intensity of therapy, group language therapies, and training conversation/communication partners are effective treatments for chronic aphasia.  Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation, and the use of the drugs piracetam, donepezil, memantime, and galantamine have also demonstrated evidence that they are effective treatments of aphasia 6 months or more post-stroke onset.  Neither filmed language instruction nor the drug bromocriptine has been shown to be effective in treating chronic aphasia.  The authors concluded that there is evidence to support the use of a number of treatments for chronic aphasia post stroke.  Moreover, they stated that further research is needed to fully support the use of these interventions and to explore the effectiveness of other aphasia interventions in the chronic stage.

Sterling et al (2013) noted that studies with adult stroke patients showed that structural neuroplastic changes are correlated with clinical improvements due to CIMT.  In a pilot study, these researchers examined if comparable changes occur in children with CP receiving CIMT.  A total of 10 children (6 boys) with congenital hemiparesis (mean age of 3 years, 3 months) underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans 3 weeks before, immediately before, and immediately after receiving 3 weeks of CMT.  Longitudinal voxel-based morphometry was performed on MRI scans to determine gray matter change.  In addition, the Pediatric Motor Activity Log-Revised was administered at these time points to assess arm use in daily life before and after treatment.  Children exhibited large improvements after CIMTin spontaneous use of the more-affected arm (p < 0.001, d' = 3.24).  A significant increase in gray matter volume occurred in the sensorimotor cortex contralateral to the more-affected arm (p = 0.04); there was a trend for these changes to be correlated with motor improvement (r = 0.63, p = 0.063).  Trends were also observed for increases in gray matter volume in the ipsilateral motor cortex (p = 0.055) and contralateral hippocampus (p = 0.1).  No significant gray matter change was seen during the 3 weeks before treatment.  These findings suggested that CIMT produces gray matter increases in the developing nervous system and provide additional evidence that CIMT is associated with structural remodeling of the human brain while producing motor improvement in patients with disabling central nervous system diseases.

Mark et al (2013) evaluated in a preliminary manner the feasibility, safety, and effectiveness of CIMT of persons with impaired lower extremity use from MS.  A referred sample of ambulatory adults with chronic MS (n = 4) with at least moderate loss of lower extremity use (average item score of less than or equal to 6.5/10 on the functional performance measure of the Lower Extremity Motor Activity Log [LE-MAL]) were included in this study.  Constraint-induced movement therapy was administered for 52.5 hours over 3 consecutive weeks (15 consecutive weekdays) to each patient.  The primary outcome was the LE-MAL score at post-treatment.  Secondary outcomes were post-treatment scores on laboratory assessments of maximal lower extremity movement ability.  All the patients improved substantially at post-treatment on the LE-MAL, with smaller improvements on the laboratory motor measures.  Scores on the LE-MAL continued to improve for 6 months afterward.  By 1 year, patients remained on average at post-treatment levels.  At 4 years, 50 % of the patients remained above pre-treatment levels. There were no adverse events, and fatigue ratings were not significantly changed by the end of treatment.  The authors concluded that the findings of this initial trial of lower extremity CIMT for MS indicates that the treatment can be safely administered, is well-tolerated, and produces substantially improved real-world lower extremity use for as long as 4 years afterward.  They stated that further trials are needed to determine the consistency of these findings.

In a randomized, single-blind, parallel-group study, Sickert et al (2014) examined the effectiveness of a modified CIAT schedule and included patients with sub-acute stroke.  The results were compared to those of patients who received identically intensive treatment focusing on conventional aphasia therapy.  A total of 50 patients were treated with the authors’ modified version of CIAT and 50 received a standard aphasia therapy at the same intensity and duration.  Inclusion criteria were clinical diagnosis of first-ever stroke, aphasia in the sub-acute stage and German speakers.  Language function was evaluated using the Aachen Aphasia Test and the Communicative Activity Log directly before therapy onset, after the training period and at 8-week and 1-year follow-ups.  Patients of both groups improved significantly in all sub-tests of the Aachen Aphasia Test Battery.  The improvements remained stable over a 1-year follow-up period.  Patients and relatives of both groups rated daily communication as significantly improved after therapy.  The authors concluded that both CIAT and conventional therapy performed with equal intensity are effective methods for patients with sub-acute aphasia.  The modified CIAT schedule is practical in an everyday therapeutic setting.  They stated that these findings indicated that a short-term intensive therapy schedule in the early aphasia stage leads to substantial improvements in language functions.

In a pilot study, McConnell et al (2014) examined the acceptability and effectiveness of reduced intensity CIMT in children with CP.  Children (9 to 11 years of age) with hemiplegia underwent 5 baseline assessments followed by 2 weeks CIMT; 6 further assessments were performed during treatment and follow-up phases.  The primary outcome was the Melbourne Assessment of Unilateral Upper Limb Function (MUUL).  Quantitative data were analyzed using standard single-subject methods and qualitative data by thematic analysis.  Four of the 7 participants demonstrated statistically significant improvements in MUUL (3 to 11 %, p < 0.05); 2 participants achieved significant improvements in active range of motion but strength and tone remained largely unchanged.  Qualitative interviews highlighted limitations of the restraint, importance of family involvement, and coordination of treatment with education.  The authors concluded that reduced intensity CIMT may be effective for some children in this population; however it is not suitable for all children with hemiplegia.  The findings of this small (n = 7) pilot study need to be validated by well-designed studies.

On behalf of the European network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA), Eliasson et al (2014) provided an overview of what is known about CIMT in children with unilateral CP; identified current knowledge gaps, and provided suggestions for future research.  A total of 9 experts participated in a consensus meeting.  A comprehensive literature search was conducted and data were summarized before the meeting.  The core model produced by the (EUnetHTA) was used as a frame-work for discussion and identified critical issues for future research.  All models of CIMT have demonstrated improvements in the upper limb abilities of children with unilateral CP.  A consensus was reached on 11 important questions to be further explored in future studies.  The areas of highest priority included the effect of dosage, the effect of repeated CIMT, and the impact of predictive factors, such as age, on the response to CIMT.  Consensus suggestions for future study designs and the use of validated outcome measures were also provided.  The authors concluded that the CIMT construct is complex, and much remains unknown.  It is unclear if a specific model of CIMT demonstrates superiority over others and whether dosage of training matters.  Moreover, they stated that future research should build upon existing knowledge and aim to provide information that will help implement CIMT in various countries with different healthcare resources and organizational structures.

An UpToDate review on “Management and prognosis of cerebral palsy” (Miller, 2014) states that “Constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) -- For children with hemiplegic CP, CIMT promotes function of the affected limb by encouraging its use through intermittent restraint of the unaffected limb during therapeutic tasks.  The method of restraint varies from holding a child's hand, to casting, and the length of time in the restraint varies from 1 to 24 hours a day.  "Forced use" is a variation of CIMT in which the limb's use is encouraged only by placement of the contralateral restraint; no additional therapeutic tasks are assigned to the affected limb.  Because the methods and outcomes used varied considerably among these trials, it is unclear which specific CIMT techniques are clinically useful”.

Johnson and colleagues (2014) stated that the initial version of CIAT I consisted of a single exercise.  In a pilot study, these researchers evaluated the feasibility for future trials of an expanded and restructured protocol (CIAT Ii) designed to increase the effectiveness of CIAT I.  The subjects were 4 native English speakers with chronic stroke who exhibited characteristics of moderate Broca's aphasia.  Treatment was carried out for 3.5 hours/day for 15 consecutive weekdays.  It consisted of 3 components: (i) intensive training by a behavioral method termed shaping using a number of expressive language exercises in addition to the single original language card game, (ii) strong discouragement of attempts to use gesture or other non-verbal means of communication, and (iii) a transfer package of behavioral techniques to promote transfer of treatment gains from the laboratory to real-life situations.  Participation in speech in the life situation improved significantly after treatment.  The effect sizes (i.e., d') in this domain were greater than or equal to 2.2; d' values greater than or equal to 0.8 are considered large.  Improvement in language ability on a laboratory test, the Western Aphasia Battery-Revised did not achieve statistical significance, although the effect size was large -- that is, 1.3 (13.1 points).  The authors concluded that the results of this pilot study suggested in preliminary fashion that CIAT II may produce significant improvements in everyday speech.  The findings of this small (n = 4) pilot study need to be validated by well-designed studies.

Martin et al (2014) examined (i) the feasibility of administering a modified CILT (mCILT) treatment session immediately after transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS); and (ii) if this combined therapy could improve naming and elicited propositional speech in chronic, non-fluent aphasia. Two chronic stroke patients with non-fluent aphasia (mild-moderate and severe) each received 20 minutes of repetitive TMS (rTMS) to suppress the right pars triangularis, followed immediately by 3 hours of mCILT (5 days/week for 2 weeks). Each patient had received TMS alone, 2 to 6 years prior. Language evaluations were performed pre- TMS+mCILT, and post- at 1 to 2 months, and 6 or 16 months. Both patients showed significant improvements in naming pictures, and elicited propositional speech at 1 to 2 months post- TMS+mCILT. The improved naming was still present at 6 months post- TMS+mCILT for patient 2; but not at 16 months post- TMS+mCILT for patient 1. The authors concluded that it is feasible to administer mCILT for 3 hours immediately after a TMS session. However, it is unknown if the significant improvements in naming pictures, and elicited propositional speech were associated with the second series of TMS, or this first series of mCILT, or a combination of both. They stated that a larger, sham-controlled clinical trial is needed.

Chen et al (2014) evaluated the research literature on the effectiveness of CIMT on improving arm function in children with CP, and assessed the association between the study effect size and the characteristics of the patients and intervention protocol. These researchers performed a systematic literature search in PubMed, PsycINFO, Cochrane, CINAHL, Web of Science, and TRIP Database up to May 2014. Studies employing RCT design, children with CP, comparing CIMT with another intervention with a focus on arm function, and upper-extremity measures were included in this review. Methodological quality was evaluated using the PEDro scale. The literature search resulted in 27 RCTs with good methodological quality that compared CIMT with other intervention therapy. Overall, CIMT provided a medium beneficial effect (d = 0.546; p < 0.001) when compared with conventional therapy. For the subgroup analyses, presence of a dose-equivalent comparison group, intervention location, and time of follow-up were significant factors. Studies examining CIMT effect without a dose-equivalent comparison group showed a large effect in children with CP, but studies with a dose-equivalent group only showed a small effect. Children who received home-based CIMT had a better improvement in arm function than those who received CIMT elsewhere.

Sakzewski and colleagues (2014) reviewed the effectiveness of non-surgical upper limb therapies for children with unilateral CP. Medline, CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature), Embase, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and PubMed were searched to December 2012. Randomized controlled or comparison trials were included. A total of 42 studies evaluating 113 UL therapy approaches (n = 1,454 subjects) met the inclusion criteria. Moderate to strong effects favoring intramuscular injections of botulinum toxin A and occupational therapy (OT) to improve UL and individualized outcomes compared with OT alone were identified. Constraint-induced movement therapy achieved modest to strong treatment effects on improving movement quality and efficiency of the impaired UL compared with usual care. There were weak treatment effects for most outcomes when constraint therapy was compared with an equal dose (amount) of bi-manual OT; both yielded similar improved outcomes. Newer interventions such as action observation training and mirror therapy should be viewed as experimental. The authors concluded that there is modest evidence that intensive activity-based, goal-directed interventions (e.g., CIMT, bi-manual training) are more effective than standard care in improving UL and individualized outcomes. There is little evidence to support block therapy alone as the dose of intervention is unlikely to be sufficient to lead to sustained changes in UL outcomes. There is strong evidence that goal-directed OT home programs are effective and could supplement hands-on direct therapy to achieve increased dose of intervention. Moreover, these investigators noted that a number of potential limitations exist with the current evidence for upper limb interventions; generally, studies continued to report small sample sizes.

Leafblad and Van Heest (2015) presented research from the last 5 years on the pathophysiology and treatment of upper extremity sequelae of CP. The development of new treatments of CP-affected limbs, utilizing the brain's inherent neuroplasticity, remains an area of promising and active research. Functional MRI scans have evaluated the role of neuroplasticity in adapting to the initial central nervous system insult. Children with CP appear to have greater recruitment of the ipsilateral brain for motor and sensory functions of the affected upper limb. Studies have also shown that CIMT resulted in localized increase in gray matter volume of the sensori-motor cortex contralateral to the affected arm targeted during rehabilitation. The authors stated that recent therapy interventions have emphasized the role of home therapy programs, the transient effects of splinting, and the promise of CIMT and bi-manual hand training.

Eliasson and Holmefur (2015) noted that there is evidence that modified CIMT (mCIMT) has a short-term positive effect on hand function in children with unilateral CP, but the long-term effect is unknown. These researchers examined if a single block of mCIMT (2 hrs/day for 2 months) at age 2 to 3 years influences the course of development of bi-manual hand function at around 8 years of age. A convenience sample of 45 children (24 males and 21 females) with unilateral CP and mean (SD) age at first assessment 32 months (13 months) was included in this study. The participants were divided into the mCIMT group (n = 26) and the reference group (no mCIMT; n = 19). Brain lesion characteristics were available for 32 children. The children were measured repeatedly with the Assisting Hand Assessment (AHA) for a mean period of 4 years and 6 months. Development curves were created and compared with a non-linear mixed effects model. Children who were receiving mCIMT had an upper limit of development of bi-manual hand function that was 8.5 AHA units higher than in the reference group (p = 0.022). However, when controlling for brain lesion characteristics and baseline in a subgroup of 32 children, the difference was considerably smaller and no longer significant. The authors concluded that mCIMT may have a positive impact on long-term development of bimanual hand function, but the results are inconclusive and further research is needed.

An UpToDate review on “Management and prognosis of cerebral palsy’ (Miller, 2015) states that “Constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) -- For children with hemiplegic CP, CIMT promotes function of the affected limb by encouraging its use through intermittent restraint of the unaffected limb during therapeutic tasks. The method of restraint varies from holding a child's hand, to casting, and the length of time in the restraint varies from 1 to 24 hours a day. "Forced use" is a variation of CIMT in which the limb's use is encouraged only by placement of the contralateral restraint; no additional therapeutic tasks are assigned to the affected limb. Because the methods and outcomes used varied considerably among these trials, it is unclear which specific CIMT techniques are clinically useful”. 

Furthermore, the United Cerebral Palsy (2015) states that “Accumulating research reports have generally shown a favorable response to CIMT, although questions remain about what is the critical level of intensity of therapy necessary for a positive effect (how much? how frequently?). As with any new therapy, another important question is whether it is superior to what is already available and being implemented, perhaps at less expense”.

The Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association (CHASA, 2015) states that “Impaired hand function is among the most functionally disabling symptoms of hemiplegia in children (also known as unilateral cerebral palsy). Evidence-based treatment approaches are generally lacking. However, recent approaches providing intensive upper extremity training appear promising. This review describes two such approaches, constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) and bimanual training (hand-arm bimanual intensive therapy, HABIT)”.

Also, Wikipedia (last updated April 21, 2015) notes that “Recently, the possible benefits of cortical reorganization has led to studies of CIMT on children because neuroplasticity is even greater among children than adults. Particular interest is growing in CIMT for children who have cerebral palsy where one arm is more affected than the other”.

CPT Codes / HCPCS Codes / ICD-10 Codes
Information in the [brackets] below has been added for clarification purposes.   Codes requiring a 7th character are represented by "+":
ICD-10 codes will become effective as of October 1, 2015:
There is no specific CPT code for constraint-induced movement therapy or constraint-induced aphasia:
CPT codes not covered for indications listed in the CPB:
92507 Treatment of speech, language, voice, communication, and/or auditory processing disorder; individual [constraint-induced aphasia/language therapy alone or in combination with transcranial magnetic stimulation]
92508     group, 2 or more individuals [constraint-induced aphasia/language therapy alone or in combination with transcranial magnetic stimulation]
Other CPT codes related to the CPB:
97110 Therapeutic procedure, one or more areas, each 15 minutes; therapeutic exercises to develop strength and endurance, range of motion and flexibility
97112     neuromuscular reeducation of movement, balance coordination, kinesthetic sense, posture, and/or proprioception for sitting and/or standing activities
97140 Manual therapy techniques (e.g., mobilization/manipulation, manual lymphatic drainage, manual traction), one or more regions, each 15 minutes
97530 Therapeutic activities, direct (one-on-one) patient contact (use of dynamic activities to improve functional performance), each 15 minutes
Other HCPCS codes related to the CPB:
G0151 Services performed by a qualified physical therapist in the home health or hospice setting, each 15 minutes
S9131 Physical therapy; in home, per diem
ICD-10 codes covered if selection criteria are met:
I69.051 - I69.059, I69.151 - I69.159,
I69.251 - I69.259, I69.351 - I69.359,
I69.851 - I69.859, I69.951 - I69.959
Sequelae of cerebrovascular disease, hemiplegia and hemiparesis
ICD-10 codes not covered for indications listed in the CPB (not all-inclusive):
G20 Parkinson's disease
G21.11 - G21.9 Secondary parkinsonism
G35 Multiple sclerosis [motor tic disorders caused by MS]
G80.0 - G80.2
G80.4 - G80.9
Cerebral Palsy
I69.020, I69.120, I69.220,
I69.320, I69.820, I69.920
Sequelae of cerebrovascular disease, aphasia
S02.0XX+ - S02.42X+,
S02.600+ - S02.92X+
Fracture of skull and facial bones [traumatic brain injury]
S02.0xxS, S02.10xS, S02.110S, S02.111S, S02.112S, S02.113S, S02.118S, S02.119S, S02.19xS, S02.2xxS, S02.3xxS, S02.400S, S02.401S, S02.402S, S02.411S, S02.412S, S02.413S, S02.42xS, S02.5xxS, S02.600S, S02.609S, S02.61xS, S02.62xS, S02.62xS, S02.63xS, S02.64xS, S02.65xS, S02.66xS, S02.67xS, S02.69xS, S02.8xxS, S02.91xS, S02.92xS Sequela of fracture of skull and facial bones [traumatic brain injury]
S06.0x0+ - S06.9x9+ Intracranial injury [traumatic brain injury]
S09.90x+ Unspecified injury of head [traumatic brain injury]

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