Objective: The aim of this study was to establish the efficacy of a therapeutic intervention based on functional electrical stimulation (FES) therapy to improve reaching and grasping function after severe hemiplegia due to stroke.
Methods: A total of 21 subjects with acute stroke were randomized into 2 groups, FES plus conventional occupational and physiotherapy (FES group) or only conventional therapy (control group) 5 days a week for 12 to 16 weeks. A third group of 7 subjects with chronic hemiplegia (at least 5 months poststroke) received only FES therapy (chronic group) and pre-post training changes were compared. FES was applied to proximal and then distal muscle groups during specific motor tasks. At baseline and at the end of treatment, grasping function was assessed using the Rehabilitation Engineering Laboratory Hand Function Test, along with more standard measures of rehabilitation outcome.
Results: The FES group improved significantly more than the control group in terms of object manipulation, palmar grip torque, pinch grip pulling force, Barthel Index, Upper Extremity Fugl-Meyer scores, and Upper Extremity Chedoke-McMaster Stages of Motor Recovery. The chronic stroke subjects demonstrated improvements in most categories, but the changes were not statistically significant.
Conclusions: FES therapy with upper extremity training may be an efficacious intervention in the rehabilitation of reaching and grasping function during acute stroke rehabilitation.