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Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2010 Oct;24(8):709-21. doi: 10.1177/1545968310366129. Epub 2010 May 11.

Home-based functional electrical stimulation rescues permanently denervated muscles in paraplegic patients with complete lower motor neuron lesion.

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Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Electrostimulation and Physical Rehabilitation, Vienna, Austria.



Spinal cord injury causes muscle wasting and loss of function, which are especially severe after complete and permanent damage to lower motor neurons. In a previous cross-sectional study, long-standing denervated muscles were rescued by home-based functional electrical stimulation (h-bFES) training.


To confirm results by a 2-year longitudinal prospective study of 25 patients with complete conus/cauda equina lesions.


Denervated leg muscles were stimulated by h-bFES using a custom-designed stimulator and large surface electrodes. Muscle mass, force, and structure were determined before and after 2 years of h-bFES using computed tomography, measurements of knee torque during stimulation, and muscle biopsies analyzed by histology and electron microscopy.


Twenty of 25 patients completed the 2-year h-bFES program, which resulted in (a) a 35% cross-sectional increase in area of the quadriceps muscle from 28.2 ± 8.1 to 38.1 ± 12.7 cm(2) (P < .001), a 75% increase in mean diameter of muscle fibers from 16.6 ± 14.3 to 29.1 ± 23.3 μm (P < .001), and improvements of the ultrastructural organization of contractile material; and (b) a 1187% increase in force output during electrical stimulation from 0.8 ± 1.3 to 10.3 ± 8.1 N m (P < .001). The recovery of quadriceps force was sufficient to allow 25% of the subjects to perform FES-assisted stand-up exercises.


Home-based FES of denervated muscle is an effective home therapy that results in rescue of muscle mass and tetanic contractility. Important immediate benefits for the patients are the improved cosmetic appearance of lower extremities and the enhanced cushioning effect for seating.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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