Bobath therapy, or neurodevelopmental therapy (NDT) is widely practiced despite evidence other interventions are more effective in cerebral palsy (CP). The objective is to determine the efficacy of NDT in children and infants with CP or high risk of CP.
Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Cochrane Library, Embase, and Medline were searched through March 2021. Randomized controlled trials comparing NDT with any or no intervention were included. Meta-analysis was conducted with standardized mean differences calculated. Quality was assessed by using Cochrane Risk of Bias tool-2 and certainty by using Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation.
Of 667 records screened, 34 studies (in 35 publications, 1332 participants) met inclusion. Four meta-analyses were conducted assessing motor function. We found no effect between NDT and control (pooled effect size 0.13 [−0.20 to 0.46]), a moderate effect favoring activity-based approaches (0.76 [0.12 to 1.40]) and body function and structures (0.77 [0.19 to 1.35]) over NDT and no effect between higher- and lower-dose NDT (0.32 [−0.11 to 0.75]). A strong recommendation against the use of NDT at any dose was made. Studies were not all Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials-compliant. NDT versus activity-based comparator had considerable heterogeneity (I2 = 80%) reflecting varied measures.
We found that activity-based and body structure and function interventions are more effective than NDT for improving motor function, NDT is no more effective than control, and higher-dose NDT is not more effective than lower-dose. Deimplementation of NDT in CP is required.