The final result of the search can be observed in the flowchart ().
Flowchart of the process of identifying and selecting studies.
Of the 300 articles obtained through the electronic search summed from all the databases searched, 27 were excluded for using samples including non-PTSD disorders or using patients with subclinical PTSD, 36 were excluded for being case studies, 192 were excluded for being theoretical articles, reviews or trials that did not include CBT, two were excluded for using outcome measures that did not include symptoms of PTSD and seven were excluded for using a sample compiled and used in a later study. Thus, 10 articles were considered for the final analysis. This count includes articles found in more than one electronic database, which were, therefore, repeated. Additionally, some studies met more than one exclusion criterion. Each of the studies selected is described below.
Ready et al 
performed an open trial with 21 Vietnam veterans. The final result combined the samples with those from an earlier study by Rothbaum et al 
, that consisted of a sample of five participants. Nine patients in the most recent study completed the treatment, and six patients dropped out during it. Of the 21 initial participants, 14 completed at least one post-treatment assessment. The questionnaires used included the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), Impact of Events Scale (IES), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and Subjective Units of Discomfort Scale (SUDS). The protocol included 8 to 20 weekly sessions, and each lasted 90 minutes. The techniques used included psychoeducation, anxiety management techniques, exposure using VR and imaginal exposure. Follow-ups were performed at three and six months. There was a significant reduction in total CAPS and IES after treatment and during the follow ups. However, for the intrusion cluster on the CAPS scale, no statistical significance was observed at the first measure post-treatment; however, at the follow-ups, there was significant improvement compared to the beginning of treatment. Although there was a significant reduction in BDI during post-treatment and at the follow-up at six months, this was not evident at the three-month follow-up. Gains were maintained for 10 of the eleven patients who completed all of the follow-ups.
Difede et al 
evaluated the efficacy of treatment with VRET in-patients who developed PTSD after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. The participants were assigned to two groups. In the first group, thirteen patients underwent intervention with VRET, and eight matched subjects were assigned to the waiting list. Five of the thirteen participants in the first group were resistant to previous treatments, and four were resistant to imaginal treatment. Because it was decided that these patients would be assigned to treatment, the study became quasi-experimental. The participants in the VRET group were paired with the participants on the waiting list according to the severity of their CAPS scores and socio-demographic characteristics. The study sample was composed entirely of males with severe PTSD. In addition to the use of CAPS, the participants were evaluated by an independent assessor using BDI and Clinical Global Impression (CGI). The treatment combined CBT with VR using techniques including psychoeducation, relaxation training, cognitive restructuring and VRET. The number of sessions was less than 14, with a mean of 7.5. All of the patients received at least six weeks of VRET. The results showed that nine of the 10 participants who completed the training obtained clinically and statistically significant improvements. A large effect size was obtained (Cohen's d
1.54). Compared to the waiting list, the group treated with VRET demonstrated statistically significant improvement based on the CAPS score. The same did not occur for BDI and CGI, for which an interaction between time and group was not noticed. However, the authors stated that the baseline scores were low. At the end of the study, six of the 10 participants in the VRET group no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Three patients from the group undergoing VRET did not complete the treatment, and one dropped out due to the anxiety related to the exposure. The dropout rate in the control group was not reported. The results remained the same in the follow-up at six months.
Wood et al 
examined the effects of VRET on twelve participants in a non-controlled study. 10 sessions that lasted 90 to 100 minutes each were performed once or twice a week. The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL-M), the BAI and PHQ-9 questionnaires were used. The techniques and procedures used in the study included psychoeducation, meditation for anxiety management, cognitive restructuring, biofeedback training and gradual exposure using virtual reality. There was a significant reduction in the PCL in 75% of the participants, and these cases no longer fulfilled the criteria for PTSD. The study did not report if there were dropouts over the course of the treatment, as well as averages or standard-deviations and only showed the results with a graph. The study did not perform a follow-up. The focus of this article was on the cost-benefit analysis of using VR; thus, the article may be limited in terms of methodology.
A randomized study by Ready et al 
compared VRET with Therapy Centered on the Present (TCP) in patients who are veterans of the Vietnam War. Of eleven male participants, nine completed the treatment, with five in the VRET group and four in the TCP group. Protocols for both treatments consisted of 10 sessions. The CAPS and BDI scales were administered before and after treatment and during a follow-up six months later by an independent assessor who was unaware of the treatment. There was an improvement of symptoms in both conditions from pretreatment to post-treatment and at the follow-up, performed six months after the end of the study, with scores on the CAPS scale showing greater variations for VRET. However, there was not a statistically significant improvement on the CAPS and BDI scales either within or between groups. It was not possible to compare and find statistically significant differences due to the small sample. There were two dropouts, one from each group.
Roy et al 
studied soldiers diagnosed with PTSD using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in addition to evaluating the effects of VRET. In the first phase of the study, there were 29 subjects who were assigned to four groups: fifteen with both PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), nine with PTSD only, one with TBI only, and four controls. The fMRI was performed before and after treatment and during follow-up periods. In the treatment phase, fifteen participants with PTSD were initially selected at random for VRET (seven) or for Prolonged Exposure (eight). At least twelve sessions lasting 90 min were performed over ≥ six weeks. Both the PE and VRET treatments used psychoeducation, relaxation techniques and some elements of imaginal and in vivo exposure. The groups received equivalent times of exposure (with VR or imaginal exposure), which lasted up to half of each session. The CAPS, PCL-M and BDI scales were administered at the same time as the cerebral scans. It was an ongoing study in which eight participants with PTSD had completed the final scan, and six had dropped out. As the authors considered the number of participants in each group insufficient for a comparison of the efficacy of treatments, the results of the two groups were combined, meaning, in this respect, that the study was non-controlled. There was a non-significant improvement in the clinical symptoms, which could be measured through reductions in CAPS, PCL, CGI and BDI. The results were maintained in the follow-ups performed at one, two and three months with eight patients with PTSD completing the post-treatment scan (five with both PTSD and TBI and three with PTSD only). The brain regions of interest were the amygdala, the hippocampus and the anterior cingulate cortex. Significant improvements are evident on the fMRI scans, which showed a reduced activation of the amygdala, subcallosal gyrus and lateral prefrontal cortex as well as a less-accentuated reduction for the anterior cingulate cortex. These results are corroborated by CGI scores; however, the CAPS score improvements are not statistically significant.
The study by McLay et al 
is a controlled non-randomized study that shows the results of treatment for PTSD in soldiers from the Iraq War, all male. They compared six cases treated with VRET and four cases with traditional exposure therapy. The treatments were conducted once or twice per week, and the number of sessions varied between six and twelve. There was no standardization in the administration of the techniques or in the number of sessions. The patients were treated according to the clinical judgment of what they required, and they typically received the treatment to which they were assigned. The scales administered included PCL-M, CAPS, PHQ-9 and BAI. All of the patients who were treated with VRET significantly reduced their scores on the PCL-M (by 67% on average), BAI and PHQ-9. At the end of the treatment, five no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. The patients who received traditional exposure therapy also showed statistically significant improvement at the end of the treatment (a 74% decrease on the PCL-M), and none showed the diagnostic criteria for PTSD at this stage. There was no statistically significant difference between the treatments. The study did'nt perform a follow up. There were no dropouts.
Rizzo et al 
conducted an open trial with 40 war veterans who were resistant to pharmacological treatment and counseling using virtual Iraq. Sessions lasting 90 to 120 minutes were held twice per week for five weeks. The average number of sessions was less than 11. The techniques used included psychoeducation, anxiety management techniques and imaginal, in vivo and VR exposure. Participants were evaluated based on the PCL-M, BAI and Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), in addition to physiological monitoring, which included heart rate, galvanic skin response and respiration frequency. However, the results of the psychophysiological monitoring were not reported. A follow-up was performed at three months. Of the 20 participants who completed the treatment, there was a clinical and statistically significant reduction in the PCL-M, with 17 participants showing a reduction of more than 50%. Furthermore, sixteen of the participants did not fulfill the criteria for PTSD after treatment. When looking at the average scores for the BAI and the PHQ-9, there was a statistically significant reduction at the end of treatment. Half of the patients did not complete the treatment.
Seven soldiers dropped out before the first session, six quit after the first session, and seven at the beginning of the VR treatment. Gains were maintained at follow-ups.
The study by Botella et al 
included subjects who had experienced a broad variety of traumatic events and used EMMA's World as a VR tool. This system used symbols to represent various traumatic events. Their sample included eight men and two women. This was a randomized clinical trial with two groups that used VRET or CBT with in vivo and imaginal exposure. Participants on the waiting list were not included. The study included 10 participants. The authors did not report the number of participants in each group or whether any participant did not complete treatment. Both protocols used from nine to twelve sessions. There was a statistically significant reduction on all the scales administered (CAPS, Davidson Trauma Scale (DTS) and Posttraumatic Cognitions Inventory (PTCI) between pre- and post-treatment conditions for the group that received VRET. VRET proved to be more effective than traditional therapy on the CAPS scale, but the difference was not statistically significant for the CAPS scale or for the others administered. The researchers did not perform follow-ups and did not report the dropout rate for either of the groups.
The study by Gamito et al 
evaluated VRET as an alternative procedure for reducing symptoms of chronic PTSD in elderly Portuguese veterans who had participated in the colonial war in Africa. 10 participants, all male, were randomly assigned to three groups: five for VRET, two for imaginal exposure, and three for the waiting list. The protocols for VRET and imaginal exposure were based on cognitive desensitization with twelve sessions of exposure with virtual reality for VRET and twelve sessions of traditional imaginal exposure for imaginal exposure group. The first session for both protocols was dedicated to psychoeducation. The CAPS, Impact of Events Scale Revised (IES-R), Symptoms Checklist Revised (SCL-90-R) and BDI scales (only for the VR group) were administered before and after treatment. There was no statistically significant difference in the analysis of the CAPS scale. However, the group treated with VRET obtained a reduction of 8% when measured with CAPS, although there was only a reduction of 1% for the group assigned to imaginal exposure and 6% for the WL. There was a reduction in IES-R for the group with VRET, whereas an increase was observed for the other two groups. There was a significant reduction in symptoms of depression (reduction of 40% on the BDI) and on the SCL-90-R for the VRET group. No follow-up was performed. One dropout was reported in the VRET group, and the dropout rate in the control group was not reported.
The study by McLay et al 
evaluated the efficacy of VRET in the treatment of 20 Active Duty military personnel in a randomized trial. 10 of these patients were assigned to VRET and 10 to treatment as usual (TAU). The participants of the latter group received a combination of typical treatments for PTSD, which included Prolonged Exposure, Cognitive Processing Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, group therapy, psychiatric medication, substance rehabilitation and inpatient service. The VRET protocol included sessions of psychoeducation, relaxation, attentional and autonomic control training and exposure to a VR simulation of Iraq or Afghanistan. There was no standardization of the treatment protocol, and the number of sessions varied from 10 to 13 weekly sessions for the two groups. The participants were monitored using the CAPS scale before and after treatment. At the end of the treatment, seven of the 10 participants in the VRET protocol showed improvements of greater than 30% on the CAPS scale, whereas only one of the nine participants who completed the TAU showed an improvement greater than 30%. Both treatments showed efficacy and there was no statistically significant difference between the groups. Only one dropout in the TAU group was reported. The researchers did not perform a follow-up.
and summarize the different aspects concerning the methodological quality of the randomized studies. Among these investigations, only one study reported the method used for generating the random sequence and whether the method used to hide the sorting did not allow a prediction of the distribution of the patients into groups. Two of the studies did not use a blind evaluator; one did not report on this, and one made use of a blind evaluator. In addition, only one of the studies included data for all the subjects in the final analysis. In all of the articles, the main scales were also administered at the final evaluation. In one study, the presence of comorbidities was not described, and in three studies, they were partially described. The numbers of subjects screened, included and excluded were described completely in only one study. In three studies, the treatments were sufficiently described or referenced to allow replication. Only two studies clearly provided information on concurrent treatments allowed and administered during the course of the study, and they did not permit concomitant treatments. In one study, this description was partially completed, and in another study, there was the possibility that the participants in group therapy were concurrently taking non-stabilized psychotropic medication. None of the articles performed an intent-to-treat analysis because there were no evaluations over the course of treatment. In fact, there were only pre- and post-treatment evaluations.
Methodological Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials; + Low Risk of Bias; – High Risk of Bias; ? Unclear Risk of Bias.
Methodological Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.