The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of applying a novel neuromuscular electrical stimulation system, targeting shoulder flexion, elbow extension, wrist extension, and individual finger extensions, to improve motor control and function of the hemiparetic upper limbs in chronic stroke patients.
Fifteen participants with chronic (>1 yr after cerebrovascular accident) upper limb hemiparesis were enrolled. The subjects underwent upper limb training for 60 mins per day, 6 days per week, for 2 wks, using both a shoulder-and-elbow stimulation device and a wrist-and-finger stimulation device developed by the study investigators. Outcomes were assessed using the upper extremity component of the Fugl-Meyer assessment, the action research arm test, and the modified Ashworth scale before and after intervention.
All patients completed the training successfully using the neuromuscular electrical stimulation system without any safety incidents or other complications reported. Nonparametric statistical analyses indicated significant improvements in the upper extremity component of the Fugl-Meyer assessment and action research arm test scores, both at P < 0.01. There were also significant reductions in modified Ashworth scale scores for the elbow and the wrist flexor, both at P < 0.01.
The multimuscle stimulation approach and method presented in this study seem feasible, and the improvements of upper limb motor control and functional test in chronic stroke patients justify further controlled investigation.