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Functional electrical stimulation cycling promotes recovery in chronic spinal cord injury
Date:3/4/2013

h chronic SCI, defined as paralysis continuing more than 16 months following injury. Twenty-five patients with chronic SCI were assigned to the FES cycling group at the Washington University Spinal Cord Injury Program, where Dr. McDonald was section head until 2004. These patients were matched by age, gender, injury level/severity and duration of injury to 20 control patients who received no active physical therapy.

On average, patients did FES cycling for 29.5 months, with an average distance of 10,466 complete cycles of the two pedals per week, the equivalent of taking 20,931 steps. In the retrospective analysis conducted by Kennedy Krieger researchers, improved motor function was observed in 80 percent of the FES group, compared to only 45 percent of control subjects. Clinically important gains in neurological function were also observed in the FES group; response in pinprick sensation was observed in 56 percent of the FES group compared with 25 percent of the control group, while 14 of the 25 FES subjects showed response in light touch scores compared to six of the 20 controls.

Results also showed that FES cycling enhanced muscle strength without increasing spasticity, a common side effect of paralysis that varies from mild muscle stiffness to severe, uncontrollable leg movements. The FES group was found to be on fewer anti-spasticity medications with lower doses than the control group, suggesting that the lower level of spasticity observed in the FES group was not due medication differences between the participants.

FES cycling was also associated with improvements in quality of life and correlated with overall improved health. FES and control groups showed no significant difference in total thigh volume; however, total thigh fat, measured by MRI, was 44.2 percent less in the FES group than in the controls.

According to Dr. McDonald, this is a key finding because intramuscular fat is associated with glucose intolerance, a
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Contact: Cynthia Chen
cchen@spectrumscience.com
202-955-6222
Kennedy Krieger Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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