A systematic review of head-up tilt to improve consciousness in people with a prolonged disorder of consciousness

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Objective: This systematic review analysed the evidence for the effect of head-up tilt (passive-standing) on consciousness among persons in prolonged disorders of consciousness. Data sources: Articles were identified through primary database searching (Medline, CINAHL, AMED, The Cochrane Library) and post-citation searching (Scopus). Review methods: This review followed the PRISMA statement. The search strategy was created to find articles that combined any conceivable passive standing device, any measure of consciousness and disorders of consciousness of any origin. Inclusion criteria were any papers that evaluated the use of head-up tilt in adults in defined disorders of consciousness. Exclusion criteria included active stand studies, paediatric studies and animal studies. The search was completed independently by two researchers. Data collection and risk of bias assessment was completed using the Downs and Black tool. Results: 6867 titles were retrieved (last search completed 21/6/20). Ten papers met the inclusion criteria: five examined the effects of a single head-up tilt treatment, and five the effects of head-up tilt regimes. Eighty-seven participants were randomised in three randomised controlled trials. In the remaining preliminary studies or case series, 233 participants were analysed. Quality was low, with only two high-quality studies available. Four studies were suitable for effect size analysis, where medium to large effect sizes were found. The two high-quality studies found head-up tilt had a large effect on consciousness. Conclusion: Overall there is some evidence that repeated passive standing on a tilt-table can improve consciousness, but the relevant studies provoke further questions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-25
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Rehabilitation
Issue number1
Early online date30 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).


  • Traumatic brain injury
  • acquired brain injury
  • physiotherapy
  • prolonged disorders of consciousness
  • rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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