Background: Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is commonly used to ameliorate gait deficits in patients with multiple sclerosis (PwMS). This review critically evaluates the literature describing the orthotic and therapeutic effects of FES on gait in PwMS.
Methods: The PubMed, CINAHL, and ProQuest databases were searched. Included were studies that evaluated therapeutic and/or orthotic effects of FES in PwMS with at least one outcome measure related to gait. Methodology was assessed using the Downs and Black checklist.
Results: Twelve relevant studies were reviewed. Their methodological quality ranged from 14 to 21 of 28. Eleven studies reported the effects of peroneal stimulation. Most found a significant orthotic effect (measured during stimulation), mainly on walking speed. Only three assessed the therapeutic effect (carry-over), which was not significant.
Conclusions: The evidence presented in this review suggests that FES has a positive orthotic effect on walking in PwMS. Yet, more robust trials are needed to substantiate this finding. Therapeutic efficacy of FES was not demonstrated, and almost all studies tested a single channel peroneal stimulator. Future studies involving FES technological innovations with advanced clinical approaches might contribute to a carry-over effect from FES and increase the percentage of PwMS who benefit from this technology.
Keywords: Functional electrical stimulation; Gait; Multiple sclerosis.
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