OBJECTIVE: To determine the effectiveness of mobility device interventions in terms of activity and participation for people with mobility limitations.
DESIGN: Systematic review. Search of 7 databases during the period 1996 to 2008.
METHODS: Controlled studies and non-controlled follow-up studies were included if they covered both baseline and follow-up data and focused on activity and participation. Study participants had to be aged over 18 years with mobility limitations. Mobility device interventions encompassed crutches, walking frames, rollators, manual wheelchairs and powered wheelchairs (including scooter types). Two reviewers independently selected the studies, performed the data extraction, and 4 reviewers assessed the studies' methodological quality. Disagreements were resolved by consensus.
RESULTS: Eight studies were included: one randomized controlled trial, 4 controlled studies, and 3 follow-up studies that included before and after data. Two studies dealt with the effects of powered wheelchair interventions and the other studies with various other types of mobility device. Two studies were of high, internal and external methodological quality. Interventions were found to be clinically effective in terms of activity and participation in 6 studies. The results did not, however, give a unanimous verdict on the effectiveness of mobility devices in enhancing the activity and participation of mobility impaired people.
CONCLUSION: Interventions and outcome measurement methods varied between the studies; consequently, it was not possible to draw any general conclusions about the effectiveness of mobility device interventions. However, evidence was found that mobility devices improve users' activity and participation and increase mobility. A lack of high-quality research hampers conclusions about effectiveness. More original, well-designed research is required.