Effect of early implementation of electrical muscle stimulation to prevent muscle atrophy and weakness in patients after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2011 Aug;21(4):622-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2011.01.005. Epub 2011 Feb 18.


Objective: Following anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, restricted weight bearing and immobilization results in thigh and calf muscle atrophy and weakness. The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) on prevention of muscle atrophy in patients during the early rehabilitation stage after ACL reconstruction.

Methods: Twenty patients with acute ACL tears were divided into two groups randomly. The control group (CON group) participated in only the usual rehabilitation program. In addition to this protocol, the electrical muscle stimulation group (EMS group) received EMS training using the wave form of 20 Hz exponential pulse from the 2nd post-operative day to 4 weeks after the surgery.

Results: Muscle thickness of vastus lateralis and calf increased significantly 4 weeks after surgery in the EMS group, while it decreased significantly in the CON group. The decline of knee extension strength was significantly less in the EMS group than in the CON group at 4 weeks after the surgery, and the EMS group showed greater recovery of knee extension strength at 3 months after surgery.

Conclusions: EMS implemented during the early rehabilitation stage is effective in maintaining and increasing muscle thickness and strength in the operated limb.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery*
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy* / instrumentation
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle Strength
  • Muscle Weakness / prevention & control*
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / physiopathology
  • Muscular Atrophy / prevention & control
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / rehabilitation*
  • Young Adult