Purpose: To determine the effects of functional electrical stimulation (FES) on the main impairments affecting gait in children with unilateral spastic cerebral palsy.
Methods: A 20-week, multiple single-subject A-B-A design included a 6-week pre-FES phase, an 8-week FES phase, and a 6-week post-FES phase. Twelve children, aged 5 to 16 years, wore an FES device (the Walk Aide) daily for 8 weeks. Weekly measures included ankle range of motion, selective motor control, dorsiflexion and plantar flexion strength, gastrocnemius spasticity, single-limb balance, Observational Gait Scale (OGS) score, and self-reported toe drag and falls in the community.
Results: Compared with the pre-FES phase, the FES phase showed significant improvements in ankle range of motion, selective motor control and strength, and reductions in spasticity, toe drag, and falls, but no change in OGS score. These improvements were maintained during the post-FES phase.
Conclusions: Intermittent, short-term use of FES is potentially effective for reducing impairments affecting gait in children with unilateral spastic cerebral palsy.