Neuromuscular stimulation has been used as one potential rehabilitative treatment option to restore motor function and improve recovery in patients with paresis. Especially stroke patients who often regain only limited hand function would greatly benefit from a therapy that enhances recovery and restores movement. Multiple studies investigated the effect of functional electrical stimulation on hand paresis, the results however are inconsistent. Here we review the current literature on functional electrical stimulation on hand motor recovery in stroke patients. We discuss the impact of different parameters such as stage after stoke, degree of impairment, spasticity and treatment protocols on the functional outcome. Importantly, we outline the results from recent studies investigating the cortical effects elicited by functional electrical stimulation giving insights into the underlying mechanisms responsible for long-term treatment effects. Bringing together the findings from present research it becomes clear that both, treatment outcomes as well as the neurophysiologic mechanisms causing functional recovery, vary depending on patient characteristics. In order to develop unified treatment guidelines it is essential to conduct homogenous studies assessing the impact of different parameters on rehabilitative success.
Keywords: FES; Functional electrical stimulation; Hand; NMES; Neuromuscular electrical stimulation; Neuroprothesis; Rehabilitation; Stroke; Upper extremity.