Background: Combination therapy is essential for functional repairs of the spinal cord. Rehabilitative therapy can be considered as the key for reorganizing the nervous system after spinal cord regeneration therapy. Functional electrical stimulation has been used as a neuroprosthesis in quadriplegia and can be used for providing rehabilitative therapy to tap the capability for central nervous system reorganization after spinal cord regeneration therapy.
Objective: To develop a less invasive muscular electrical stimulation model capable of being combined with spinal cord regeneration therapy especially for motor therapy in the acute stage after spinal cord injury.
Methods: The tibialis anterior and gastrocnemius motor points were identified in intact anesthetized adult female Fischer rats, and stimulation needle electrodes were percutaneously inserted into these points. Threshold currents for visual twitches were obtained upon stimulation using pulses of 75 or 8 kHz for 200 ms. Biphasic pulse widths of 20, 40, 80, 100, 300, and 500 µs per phase were used to determine strength-duration curves. Using these parameters and previously obtained locomotor electromyogram data, stimulations were performed on bilateral joint muscle pairs to produce reciprocal flexion/extension movements of the ankle for 15 minutes while three-dimensional joint kinematics were assessed.
Results: Rhythmic muscular electrical stimulation with needle electrodes was successfully done, but decreased range of motion (ROM) over time. High-frequency and high-amplitude stimulation was also shown to be effective in alleviating decreases in ROM due to muscle fatigue.
Conclusions: This model will be useful for investigating the ability of rhythmic muscular electrical stimulation therapy to promote motor recovery, in addition to the efficacy of combining treatments with spinal cord regeneration therapy after spinal cord injuries.