Background: The long-term management of stroke is an area of increasing clinical interest, and it is important to identify therapeutic interventions that are effective in the chronic phase post stroke.
Objective: To conduct a systematic review on the effectiveness of functional electrical stimulation (FES) in improving lower extremity function in chronic stroke.
Methods: Multiple databases (PubMed, CINAHL, EMBASE, and Scopus) were searched for relevant articles. Studies were included for review if (1) ≥50% of the study population has sustained a stroke, (2) the study design was a randomized controlled trial (RCT), (3) the mean time since stroke was ≥6 months, (4) FES or neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) was compared to other interventions or a control group, and (5) functional lower extremity outcomes were assessed. Methodological quality was assessed using the PEDro tool. A standardized mean difference (SMD ± SE and 95% confidence interval [CI]) was calculated for the 6-minute walk test (6MWT). Pooled analysis was conducted for treatment effect of FES on the 6MWT distance using a fixed effects model.
Results: Seven RCTs (PEDro scores 5-7) including a pooled sample size of 231 participants met inclusion criteria. Pooled analysis revealed a small but significant treatment effect of FES (0.379 ± 0.152; 95% CI, 0.081 to 0.677; P = .013) on 6MWT distance.
Conclusion: FES may be an effective intervention in the chronic phase post stroke. However, its therapeutic value in improving lower extremity function and superiority over other gait training approaches remains unclear.