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J Nippon Med Sch. 2008 Feb;75(1):4-14.

Neurorehabilitation with new functional electrical stimulation for hemiparetic upper extremity in stroke patients.

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  • 1The Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Nippon Medical School Chiba Hokusoh Hospital, Inba-gun, Chiba, Japan.


In recent years, our understanding of motor learning, neuroplasticity, and functional recovery after the occurrence of brain lesion has grown significantly. New findings in basic neuroscience have stimulated research in motor rehabilitation. Repeated motor practice and motor activity in a real-world environment have been identified in several prospective studies as favorable for motor recovery in stroke patients. Electrical stimulation can be applied in a variety of ways to the hemiparetic upper extremity following stroke. In this paper, an overview of current research into clinical and therapeutic applications of functional electrical stimulation (FES) is presented. In particular, electromyography (EMG)-initiated electrical muscle stimulation--but not electrical muscle stimulation alone--improves the motor function of the hemiparetic arm and hand. Triggered electrical stimulation is reported to be more effective than untriggered electrical stimulation in facilitating upper extremity motor recovery following stroke. Power-assisted FES induces greater muscle contraction by electrical stimulation in proportion to the voluntary integrated EMG signal picked up, which is regulated by a closed-loop control system. Power-assisted FES and motor point block for antagonist muscles have been applied with good results as a new hybrid FES therapy in an outpatient rehabilitation clinic for patients with stroke. Furthermore, a daily home program therapy with power-assisted FES using new equipment has been able to effectively improve wrist and finger extension and shoulder flexion. Proprioceptive sensory feedback might play an important role in power-assisted FES therapy. Although many physiotherapeutic modalities have been established, conclusive proof of their benefit and physiological models of their effects on neuronal structures and processes are still missing. A multichannel near-infrared spectroscopy study to noninvasively and dynamically measure hemoglobin levels in the brain during functional activity has shown that cerebral blood flow in the sensory-motor cortex on the injured side is higher during a power-assisted FES session than during simple active movement or simple electrical stimulation. Nevertheless, evidence-based strategies for motor rehabilitation are more easily available, particularly for patients with hemiparesis.

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