Science

This review demonstrates that neuro-rehabilitation approaches, based on recent neuroscience findings, can enhance locomotor recovery after a spinal cord injury or stroke. Findings are presented from more than 20 clinical studies conducted by numerous research groups on the effect of locomotor training using either body weight support (BWS), functional electrical stimulation (FES), pharmacological approaches or a combination of them. Among the approaches, only BWS-assisted locomotor training has been demonstrated to have a greater effect than conventional or locomotor training alone. However, when study results were combined and weighted for the number of subjects, the results indicated that there is a gradient of effects from small changes with the immediate application of FES or BWS to larger changes when locomotor training is combined with FES or BWS or pharmacological approaches. The findings of these studies suggest that these neuro-rehabilitation approaches do play a role in the recovery of walking in subjects with spinal cord injury or stroke. Several factors contribute to the potential for recovery including the site, etiology and chronicity of the injury, as well as the type, duration, and specificity of the intervention and whether interventions are combined. Furthermore, how these neuro-rehabilitation approaches may take advantage of the plasticity process following neurological lesion is also discussed. 
Barbeau H. et.al. Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 

Background: An estimated 15 million adults in the United States are affected by dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). Severe dysphagia predisposes to medical complications such as aspiration pneumonia, bronchospasm, dehydration, malnutrition, and asphyxia. These can cause death or increased health care costs from increased severity of illness and prolonged length of stay. Existing modalities for treating dysphagia are generally ineffective, and at best it may take weeks to months to show improvement. One common conventional therapy, application of cold stimulus to the base of the anterior faucial arch, has been reported to be somewhat effective. We describe an alternative treatment consisting of transcutaneous electrical stimulation (ES) applied through electrodes placed on the neck. Objective: Compare the effectiveness of ES treatment to thermal-tactile stimulation (TS) treatment in patients with dysphagia caused by stroke and assess the safety of the technique. Methods: In this controlled study, stroke patients with swallowing disorder were alternately assigned to one of the two treatment groups (TS or ES). Entry criteria included a primary diagnosis of stroke and confirmation of swallowing disorder by modified barium swallow (MBS). TS consisted of touching the base of the anterior faucial arch with a metal probe chilled by immersion in ice. ES was administered with a modified hand-held battery-powered electrical stimulator connected to a pair of electrodes positioned on the neck. Daily treatments of TS or ES lasted 1 hour. Swallow function before and after the treatment regimen was scored from 0 (aspirates own saliva) to 6 (normal swallow) based on substances the patients could swallow during a modified barium swallow. Demographic data were compared with the test and Fisher exact test. Swallow scores were compared with the Mann-Whitney U test and Wilcoxon signed-rank test. Results: The treatment groups were of similar age and gender (p > 0.27), co-morbid conditions (p = 0.0044), and initial swallow score (p = 0.74). Both treatment groups showed improvement in swallow score, but the final swallow scores were higher in the ES group (p > 0.0001). In addition, 98% of ES patients showed some improvement, whereas 27% of TS patients remained at initial swallow score and 11% got worse. These results are based on similar numbers of treatments (average of 5.5 for ES and 6.0 for TS, p = 0.36). Conclusions: ES appears to be a safe and effective treatment for dysphagia due to stroke and results in better swallow function than conventional TS treatment. 
Freed M.L. et.al. Respir. Care. 

Background and purpose: It has been suggested that cyclic neuromuscular electrical stimulation (ES) may enhance motor recovery after stroke. We have investigated the effects of ES of the wrist extensors on impairment of wrist function and on upper-limb disability in patients being rehabilitated after acute stroke. Methods: We recruited 60 hemiparetic patients (mean age, 68 years) 2 to 4 weeks after stroke into a randomized, controlled, parallel-group study comparing standard rehabilitation treatment with standard treatment plus ES of wrist extensors (3 times 30 minutes daily for 8 weeks). Isometric strength of wrist extensors was measured using a device built for that purpose. Upper-limb disability was assessed with use of the Action Research Arm Test (ARAT). Observations were continued for 32 weeks (24 weeks after the finish of ES or the control intervention phase). Results: The change in isometric strength of wrist extensors (at an angle of 0 degrees extension) was significantly greater in the ES group than the control group at both 8 and 32 weeks (P=0.004, P=0.014 by Mann Whitney U test). At week 8 the grasp and grip subscores of the ARAT increased significantly in the ES group compared with that in the control group (P=0.013 and P=0.02, respectively); a similar trend was seen for the total ARAT score (P=0.11). In the subgroup of 33 patients with some residual wrist extensor strength at study entry (moment at 0 degrees extension >0), the ARAT total score had increased at week 8 by a mean of 21.1 (SD, 12.7) in the ES group compared with 10.3 (SD, 9.0) in the control group (P= 0.024, Mann Whitney U test); however, at 32 weeks the differences between these2 subgroupswere no longer statistically significant. Conclusions: ES of the wrist extensors enhances the recovery of isometric wrist extensor strength in hemiparetic stroke patients. Upper-limb disability was reduced after 8 weeks of ES therapy, with benefits most apparent in those with some residual motor function at the wrist... 
Powell J. et.al. Dep. Bioengineering, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland. Journal: Stroke. 

Objective: To assess the efficacy of functional electrical stimulation (FES) in the rehabilitation of hemiparesis in stroke. Design: A meta-analysis combined the reported randomized controlled trials of FES in stroke, using the effect size method of Glass, and the DerSimonian-Laird Random Effects Method for pooling studies. Setting: The included studies were published between 1978 and 1992. They were conducted In academic rehabilitation medicine settings. Patients: In all included studies, patients were in poststroke rehabilitation. The mean time after stroke varied from 1.5 to 29.2 months. Intervention: FES applied to a muscle or associated nerve in a hemiparetic extremity was compared to No FES. Main outcome measure: Change in paretic muscle force of contraction following FES was compared to change without FES. Results: For the four included studies, the mean effect size was .63 (95% CI: .29, .98). This result was statistically significant (p < .05). Conclusion: Pooling from randomized trials supports FES as promoting recovery of muscle strength after stroke. This effect is statistically significant. There is a reasonable likelihood of clinical significance as well. 
Glanz M. et.al. Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA. Arch Phys Med Rehabilitation 

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a functional electrical stimulation (FES) treatment program designed to prevent glenohumeral joint stretching and subsequent subluxation and shoulder pain in stroke patients. Twenty-six recent hemiplegic stroke patients with shoulder muscle flaccidity were randomly assigned to either a control group (n = 13; 5 female, and 8 male) or experimental group (n = 13; 6 female, and 7 male). Both groups received conventional physical therapy. The experimental group received additional FES therapy where two flaccid/paralyzed shoulder muscles (supraspinatus and posterior deltoid) were induced to contract repetitively up to 6 hours a day for 6 weeks. Duration of both the FES session and muscle contraction/relaxation ratio were progressively increased as performance improved. The experimental group showed significant improvements in arm function, electromyographic activity of the posterior deltoid, range of motion, and reduction in subluxation (as indicated by x-ray) compared with the control group. We concluded that the FES program was effective in reducing the severity of shoulder subluxation and pain, and possibly facilitating recovery of arm function. 
Faghri P.D. Rehabilitation Institute of Ohio, Dayton. Arch Phys Med Rehabilitation 

Passive cyclical electrical stimulation was applied during a four-week treatment program to the wrist and finger extensors of 16 hemiplegic patients with flexor spasticity. The study noted the effects of this treatment on the patients' sensation; spasticity; passive range of motion of the wrist, metacarpophalangeal, and proximal interphalangeal joints; and strength in the wrist extensor muscles. Patients were divided into chronic and subacute groups. Both groups received electrical stimulation for three half-hour periods a day, seven days a week, as a substitute for all other range-of-motion techniques. Flexion contractures were prevented in the subacute group of patients at the wrist, metacarpophalangeal, and proximal interphalangeal joints. A statistically and clinically significant increase in wrist extension range occurred in the chronic group that had wrist flexion contractures before the electrical stimulation. Increased extension was noted at the metacarpophalangeal and proximal interphalangeal joints of patients in the chronic group. Those patients with some voluntary wrist extension before the treatment began were able to increase their extension strength during stimulation. No changes in skin sensation were noted and only a general trend in decreasing spasticity was apparent. 
Baker L. Physical Therapy 

The objective was to inform sample size calculations for a full randomized controlled trial (RCT). The design included an RCT pilot trial with a 16 week study period, including a 4 week baseline phase. The subjects were adults within 1 year of first stroke, ambulant with a spastic dropped foot. Twenty-one participants were recruited from the stroke services of 4 centers. For intervention all participants received physiotherapy; the treatment group also received botulinum neurotoxin Type A (BoNTA) intramuscular injections to triceps surae (800 U Dysport) and functional electrical stimulation (FES) of the common peroneal nerve to assist walking. The main outcome measure was walking speed. The result was a significant upward trend in median walking speed for both the control (p = 0.02) and treatment groups (nonstimulated p = 0.004, stimulated p = 0.042). Trend lines were different in location (p = 0.04 and p = 0.009, respectively). In conclusion, there is evidence of an additional, beneficial effect of BoNTA and FES. Sufficient information has been gained on the variability of the primary outcome measure to inform sample size calculations for a full RCT to quantify the treatment effect with precision. 
Johnson C. Dep. Medical Physics, Salisbury District Hospital, UK 

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of ipsilateral arm movement and contralateral hand grasp on the spastic hand opened by open-loop electrical stimulation. The major problem of applying proper electrical stimulation is variable spasticity, the intensity of which changes with posture and movements of other parts of the body. Electrical stimulation was applied to extensor digitorum communis and ulnar nerve to open the affected hand. Different procedures were then used to assess the effects of moving the ipsilateral forearm and contracting the contralateral normal hand. Electrical stimulation opened the spastic hand in more than 95% of trials in all subjects, whether stimulation was applied before or after the movement of the forearm. Moving the ipsilateral forearm did have an effect on opening the hand, and making adjustment of stimulation intensities was necessary in all subjects. The stimulation opened the spastic hand during the contraction of the contralateral normal hand. Electrical stimulation could open the spastic hands most of the time, in the resence of ipsilateral forearm movement and contralateral normal hand contraction. If electrical stimulation was applied before the ipsilateral forearm was moved toward the target, stimulation intensities needed to be adjusted. 
Lin C. Dep. Neurology, National Cheng-Kung University Hospital, Taiwan Neurorehabilitation Neural Repair 

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of the use of neuromuscular stimulation (NMS)-induced contraction of the paralyzed muscles to produce an active muscle pump for removing excess fluid and compare its effect with elevation of the upper extremity. The effects of 30 minutes of NMS of the finger and wrist flexors and extensors were compared with the effects of 30 minutes of limb elevation alone. Each of eight cerebrovascular accident (CVA) patients with visible hand edema received both treatments, one on each of 2 consecutive days. Measures of hand and arm volume and upper and lower arm girth were taken before and after each treatment. Analyses comparing mean percentage change scores for both treatments showed large and significant treatment effects for all dependent measures. The finding suggests that NMS was more effective for reduction of hand edema than limb elevation alone for this sample of eight CVA patients. 
Faghri PD. Uni. of Connecticut, USA. Journal Hand Therapy