Critically Appraised Topic
At one of our clinical affiliations, many parents of children with cerebral palsy were questioning whether or not they should enroll their children in the optional summer aquatics program offered at the clinic. Parents would have to pay an extra $20 per week out of pocket for this program since insurance would not cover it. The parents wanted to know how children with cerebral palsy benefit from aquatic therapy.
Population: Children and adolescents with cerebral palsy (all ability levels.)
Intervention: A one-on-one aquatic therapy program 2 times a week for 8 weeks at a local warm water pool in addition to traditional physical therapy.
Comparison: Children receiving only traditional outpatient physical therapy for 8 weeks.
Outcome: Health related quality of life as defined by the Ped QL (physical, emotional, social, and school function).
Clinical Bottom Line
The evidence presented in these three articles suggests the need for further research on this topic. Research analyzed shows that significant improvements can be made with an aquatic therapy program on vital capacity in conjunction with land-based physical therapy, although other improvements were not found to be significant or cannot be applied to a larger population. In regards to educating patients and their families about aquatic therapy, the available evidence did not conclusively prove aquatic therapy will significantly improve quality of life and, therefore, it may not be worth the additional cost.
Mildren, Ashley, "The Effectiveness of an Aquatic Therapy Program in Improving Health Related Quality of Life for Children and Adolescents with Cerebral Palsy" (2009). PT Critically Appraised Topics. 27.