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J Rehabil Med. 2017 Jan 19;49(1):40-48. doi: 10.2340/16501977-2168.

Use of neuromuscular electrical stimulation to preserve the thickness of abdominal and chest muscles of critically ill patients: A randomized clinical trial.



To evaluate and compare the effects of neuromuscular electrical stimulation combined with conventional physical therapy on muscle thickness in critically ill patients.


Double-blind, randomized controlled trial.


Twenty-five patients participated in the study.


Patients on mechanical ventilation for 24-48 h were randomized to an intervention group (neuromuscular electrical stimulation + conventional physical therapy) or a conventional group (sham neuromuscular electrical stimulation + conventional physical therapy). Primary outcome was thickness of the rectus abdominis and chest muscles, determined on cross-sectional ultrasound images before and after the intervention.


Eleven patients were included in the intervention group and 14 in the conventional group. After neuromuscular electrical stimulation, rectus abdominis muscle thickness and chest muscle thickness were preserved in the intervention group, whereas there was a significant reduction in thickness in the conventional group, with a significant difference between groups. There was a significant difference between groups in length of stay in the intensive care unit, with shorter length of stay in the intervention group.


There was no change in rectus abdominis and chest muscle thickness in the intervention group. A significant decrease was found in these measures in the conventional group.

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