New Study Sheds Light on FES Therapy for Incomplete Tetraplegia

Individuals with incomplete tetraplegia, a type of spinal cord injury, often focus their rehabilitation on regaining hand and arm function. While conventional therapy offers significant benefits, researchers are constantly exploring new avenues to enhance recovery potential.

A recent study published in Frontiers in Rehabilitation Sciences investigated the effectiveness of Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) therapy for this population. FES utilizes controlled electrical pulses to stimulate paralyzed or weakened muscles, potentially helping those with SCI regain movement and improve overall function.

The study compared FES therapy to traditional rehabilitation methods. Excitingly, the results indicated that both approaches led to improvements in hand and arm function. While there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups, the findings highlight FES as a promising tool to be considered alongside conventional therapies for individuals with incomplete tetraplegia.

This is a summary of a research article investigating the effectiveness of functional electrical stimulation (FES) therapy compared to conventional therapy in improving upper extremity motor function in individuals with incomplete cervical spinal cord injury.

Here are the key points:

    • Study Design: Randomized controlled trial (RCT) with two arms: FES therapy and conventional therapy.
    • Participants: 51 adults with incomplete cervical SCI (C4-C7), 4-96 months post-injury, and SCIM-SC score ≤10.
    • Intervention:
        • FES group: 40 sessions of FES therapy using the MyndMove stimulator over 14 weeks.
        • Conventional therapy group: 40 sessions of conventional upper limb therapy over 14 weeks.
    • Main Outcome: Change in SCIM-SC score (spinal cord independence measure for self-care) from baseline to end of treatment.
    • Secondary Outcomes: Changes in SCIM mobility subscale, GRASSP (grasp and prehension ability), and TRI-HFT (hand function) scores.
    • Results:
        • Both groups improved in SCIM-SC scores (2 points on average) at the end of treatment, which persisted at follow-up.
        • There were no statistically significant differences between the FES and conventional therapy groups on any outcome measure.
    • Limitations:
        • COVID-19 pandemic impacted enrollment (target not reached).
        • Therapy protocol interruption for some participants due to COVID-19.

Overall, the study found that while both FES therapy and conventional therapy led to improvements in upper extremity function for people with incomplete cervical SCI, there was no evidence that FES therapy was superior to conventional therapy.