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J Rehabil Med. 2005 Mar;37(2):65-74.

Relation between stimulation characteristics and clinical outcome in studies using electrical stimulation to improve motor control of the upper extremity in stroke.

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  • 1Roessingh Research and Development Enschede The Netherlands.



Electrical stimulation can be applied in a variety of ways to the hemiparetic upper extremity following stroke. The aim of this review is to explore the relationship between characteristics of stimulation and the effect of electrical stimulation on the recovery of upper limb motor control following stroke.


A systematic literature search was performed to identify clinical trials evaluating the effect of electrical stimulation on motor control. The reported outcomes were examined to identify a possible relationship between the reported effect and the following characteristics: duration of stimulation, method of stimulation, setting of stimulation parameters, target muscles and stage after stroke.


Nineteen clinical trials were included, and the results of 22 patient groups were evaluated. A positive effect of electrical stimulation was reported for 13 patient groups. Positive results were more common when electrical stimulation was triggered by voluntary movement rather than when non-triggered electrical stimulation was used. There was no relation between the effect of electrical stimulation and the other characteristics examined.


Triggered electrical stimulation may be more effective than non-triggered electrical stimulation in facilitating upper extremity motor recovery following stroke. It appears that the specific stimulus parameters may not be crucial in determining the effect of electrical stimulation.

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