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Papers of the Week

2022 Apr

Semin Pediatr Neurol


The Role of Physiotherapy in the Management of Functional Neurological Disorder in Children and Adolescents.


Kim Y-N, Gray N, Jones A, Scher S, Kozlowska K
Semin Pediatr Neurol. 2022 Apr; 41:100947.
PMID: 35450664.


Children and adolescents with functional neurological (conversion) disorder (FND) present with symptoms of impaired motor and sensory function. FND involves complex interactions between the brain, mind, body, and lived experience of the child. The gold standard for treatment is therefore a holistic, biopsychosocial approach with multimodal interventions delivered by a multidisciplinary team. In this narrative review we examine the role of physiotherapy in managing FND in children. We searched Embase, Medline, PsycINFO, and PubMed (back to 2000) for relevant physiotherapy articles and also manually searched their reference lists. Two review articles and ten observational studies were identified. Data were extracted concerning the type of study, therapies involved, outcome measures, and comorbid mental health outcomes. FND symptoms resolved in 85% to 95% of the patients, and about two-thirds returned to full-time school after completing the multidisciplinary intervention. Ongoing mental health concerns at follow-up were associated with poorer functional outcomes. Key themes included the following: use of psychological interventions embedded in the physiotherapy intervention; integration of play, music, and dance; role of physical exercise in modulating physiological, neural, and endocrine systems; need for FND-specific outcome measures; ethical issues pertaining to randomized trials; and need to develop alternate study methodologies for assessing combined treatments. Clinical vignettes were included to highlight a range of physiotherapy interventions. In conclusion, the emerging literature suggests that physiotherapy for children with FND is a useful intervention for improving motor dysfunction and for addressing other concurrent issues such as physical deconditioning, neuroprotection, chronic pain, disturbed sleep, anxiety and depression, and resilience building.