Context and objective: Electrical stimulation (ES) is widely used to strengthen muscles following ligament and meniscal injuries. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of ES for rehabilitation after soft tissue injuries of the knee treated surgically or conservatively.
Design and setting: Systematic review at the Brazilian Cochrane Center.
Methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (2010, Issue 12), Medline (Medical Analysis and Retrieval System Online) via PubMed (1966 to December 2010), Embase (Excerpta Medica database, 1980 to December 2010), Lilacs (Literatura Latino-Americana e do Caribe em Ciências da Saúde, 1982 to December 2010), and PEDro (Physiotherapy Evidence Database, 1929 to December 2010). The studies included were randomized controlled trials using ES to increase muscle strength for rehabilitation of patients with soft tissue injuries of the knee. Two authors independently evaluated studies for inclusion and performed data extraction and methodological quality assessment.
Results: Seventeen studies evaluating ES after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction and two studies evaluating ES after meniscectomy were included. There was a statistically significant improvement in quadriceps strength through ES (mean difference, MD: -32.7; 95% confidence interval, CI: -39.92 to -25.48; n = 56) and in functional outcomes (MD -7; -12.78 to -1.22; n = 43) six to eight weeks after surgical reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament.
Conclusion: There is evidence that ES coupled with conventional rehabilitation exercises may be effective in improving muscle strength and function two months after surgery.