Functional electrical stimulation for improving gait in persons with chronic stroke

Top Stroke Rehabil. Nov-Dec 2012;19(6):491-8. doi: 10.1310/tsr1906-491.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / etiology*
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / pathology
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Stroke / complications*
  • Stroke / therapy*
  • Walking / physiology