Trial shows only that practice variesBMJ 2012; 345 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e6022 (Published 10 September 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6022
- Lotte Meteyard, lecturer in clinical language sciences and speech and language therapist1
Bowen and colleagues’ methods and conclusions raise concerns.1 At best, the trial evaluates the variability in current practice. In no way is it a robust test of treatment.
Two communication impairments (aphasia and dysarthria) were included. In the post-acute stage spontaneous recovery is highly unpredictable, and changes in the profile of impairment during this time are common.2 Both impairments manifest in different forms,3 which may be more or less responsive to treatment. A third kind of impairment, apraxia of speech, was not excluded but was not targeted in therapy. All three impairments can and do co-occur.
Whether randomised controlled trial designs can effectively cope with such complex disorders has been discussed elsewhere.4 Treatment was defined within terms of current practice but was unconstrained. Therefore, the treatment group would have received a variety of therapeutic approaches and protocols, some of which may indeed be ineffective. Only 53% of the contact time with a speech and language therapist was direct (one to one), the rest was impairment based therapy. In contrast, all of the visitors’ time was direct contact, usually in conversation. In both groups, the frequency and length of contact time varied. We already know that the transfer from impairment based therapy to functional communication can be limited and varies across individuals.5 However, it is not possible to conclude from this trial that one to one impairment based therapy should be replaced. For that, a well defined impairment therapy protocol must be directly compared with a similarly well defined functional communication therapy, with an attention control.
Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6022
Competing interests: None declared.
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