Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is an emerging approach for improving aphasia after stroke. However, it remains unclear what type of tDCS stimulation is most effective. Our aim was to give an overview of the evidence network regarding the efficacy and safety of tDCS and to estimate the effectiveness of the different stimulation types.
This is a systematic review of randomized controlled trials with network meta-analysis (NMA). We searched the following databases until 4 February 2020: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, AMED, Web of Science, and four other databases. We included studies with adult people with stroke. We compared any kind of active tDCS (anodal, cathodal, or dual, that is applying anodal and cathodal tDCS concurrently) regarding improvement of our primary outcome of functional communication, versus control, after stroke. PROSPERO ID: CRD42019135696.
We included 25 studies with 471 participants. Our NMA showed that tDCS did not improve our primary outcome, that of functional communication. There was evidence of an effect of anodal tDCS, particularly over the left inferior frontal gyrus, in improving our secondary outcome, that of performance in naming nouns (SMD = 0.51; 95% CI 0.11 to 0.90). There was no difference in safety between tDCS and its control interventions, measured by the number of dropouts and adverse events.