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J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2018 Jan 30;24(1):19-29. doi: 10.5056/jnm17071.

Neuromodulation via Interferential Electrical Stimulation as a Novel Therapy in Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Central Clinical School, Monash University and Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


The concept of therapeutic percutaneous neuromodulation has, until recently, been limited by the ability to penetrate deeply enough to stimulate internal organs. By utilizing 2 medium frequency, slightly out of phase electrical currents passing diagonally through the abdomen, a third, low frequency current is created at the point of bisection. This interferential current appears to stimulate nerve fibers in the target organs and may have a therapeutic action. The aim of the study is to review the use of transcutaneous interferential electrical stimulation with a focus on its application in gastroenterology, particularly in motility disorders. Studies involving use of interferential current therapy were searched from Medline, PubMed, and Scopus databases, and articles pertaining to history, its application and all those treating abdominal and gastrointestinal disorders were retrieved. Seventeen studies were identified, 13 involved children only. Eleven of these were randomised controlled trials (3 in adults). Four trials were from the one center, where each paper reported on different outcomes such as soiling, defecation frequency, quality of life, and colon transit studies from the one pool of children. All studies found statistically significant improvement in symptom reduction. However, weaknesses in study design were apparent in some. In particular, finding an adequate placebo to interferential current therapy has been difficult. Interferential current therapy shows potential as a novel, non-pharmacological and economical means of treating gastrointestinal dysfunction such as constipation. More studies are needed particularly in the adult population. However, the design of a suitable placebo is challenging.


Constipation; Electrical stimulation; Gastroenterology

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