Effect of an electric stimulation facilitation program on quadriceps motor unit recruitment after stroke

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2004 Dec;85(12):2040-5. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2004.02.029.


Objective: To compare maximum voluntary isometric torque (MVIT) and motor unit recruitment of the quadriceps after an electric stimulation facilitation program in persons affected by cerebrovascular accident (CVA).

Design: Three-week, randomized controlled trial with an electric stimulation facilitation program added to standard care.

Setting: Inpatient rehabilitation center.

Participants: Twenty patients receiving rehabilitation for first-time CVA (51.8+/-15.2 y; days post-CVA, 38.4+/-40.0 d). Patients were randomly assigned to study and control groups.

Interventions: All patients received standard physical therapy (PT) care. In addition, the study group received an electric stimulation facilitation program during weight-bearing and ambulatory activities of the PT program.

Main outcome measures: MVIT and motor unit recruitment measured by interpolated twitch testing. A 2 x 4 repeated-measures analysis of variance was performed on measurements at 4 intervals: pretest, 1 week, 2 weeks, and 3 weeks.

Results: MVIT increased by 77% in patients receiving electric stimulation, compared with a 31% increase for the control group. There was a significant effect for assessment time only. Motor unit recruitment increased from 35% to 53% for the study group, whereas the control group recorded no change in recruitment ability. A significant interaction was recorded, indicating improved motor unit recruitment for the study group.

Conclusions: A brief and dynamic electric stimulation facilitation program significantly improved motor unit recruitment in persons after CVA.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Recruitment, Neurophysiological / physiology*
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Thigh
  • Torque
  • Treatment Outcome