Seat pressure changes after eight weeks of functional electrical stimulation cycling: a pilot study

Top Spinal Cord Inj Rehabil. 2013 Summer;19(3):222-8. doi: 10.1310/sci1903-222.


Background: Pressure ulcers (PUs) are a common secondary condition associated with spinal cord injury (SCI). PUs can potentially interfere with activities of daily living, occupational duties, and rehabilitation programs, and in severe cases they may threaten life. Functional electrical stimulation (FES) cycling has been proposed as an activity that may decrease the risk of PUs through the promotion of increased blood flow and thickening of the gluteus maximus. The purpose of this pilot study was to measure the effects of home-based FES cycling on the average and maximal seat pressure of wheelchair-reliant individuals with SCI.

Method: Eight male veterans with C5-T6 SCI participated in FES cycling 3 times per week. Cycling parameters were individualized depending on the comfort of the participants and the amount of current needed to perform the cycling activity. Pressure mapping was completed immediately before and after the 8 weeks of FES cycling with the measurement performed by a force sensitive application (FSA) 4 pressure mapping system.

Results: The mean average seat pressure decreased by 3.69 ± 4.46 mm Hg (35.57 ± 11.99 to 31.88 ± 13.02), while the mean maximum seat pressure decreased by 14.56 ±18.45 mm Hg (112 ± 34.73 to 98.36 ± 25.89). Although neither measurement was statistically significant, there was a strong trend toward a reduction in average and maximal seat pressure (P = .052 and P = .061, respectively).

Conclusion: The positive trend of decreased seat pressure in our study creates incentive for further investigation of the effects of electrical stimulation activities on seat pressure and the prevention of PUs.

Keywords: functional electrical stimulation cycling; pressure ulcer; seat pressure mapping.