Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation of Upper Limbs in Patients With Cerebral Palsy: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2023 Feb 1;102(2):151-158. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000002058. Epub 2022 Jun 9.


Objective: The aim of the study is to assess the effects of neuromuscular electrical stimulation on the upper limbs of patients with cerebral palsy.

Design: We searched PubMed, Cochrane, Embase, and Scopus databases for randomized controlled trials examining the effects of neuromuscular electrical stimulation on the upper limbs of children with cerebral palsy.

Results: Eight randomized controlled trials ( N = 294) were included in the meta-analysis. Compared with traditional physical therapy, sensorimotor training and task-oriented training, constraint-induced movement therapy, dynamic bracing, and conventional robot-assisted therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation in combination with these therapies resulted in significantly greater functional scale scores (standardized mean difference = 0.80; 95% confidence interval = 0.54 to 1.06), muscle strength of upper limbs (standardized mean difference = 0.57; 95% confidence interval = 0.25 to 0.88), and spasticity of upper limbs (relative risk = 2.53; 95% confidence interval = 1.46 to 4.39; standardized mean difference = -0.18; 95% confidence interval = -0.29 to -0.06) but did not improve the wrist range of motion (standardized mean difference = 0.43; 95% confidence interval = -0.04 to 0.91). In addition, the effect of neuromuscular electrical stimulation on functional scale scores remained after 3-mo follow-up (standardized mean difference = 0.68; 95% confidence interval = 0.16 to 1.2).

Conclusions: Neuromuscular electrical stimulation effectively improved hand function, muscle strength, and spasticity in patients with cerebral palsy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Palsy*
  • Child
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy* / methods
  • Humans
  • Muscle Spasticity
  • Muscle Strength
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Upper Extremity