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Effects of neuromuscular electrical stimulation on spasticity and walking performance among individuals with chronic stroke: a pilot randomized clinical trial
Almutairi SM, Khalil ME, Almutairi N, Alsaadoon SM, Alharbi DS, Al Assadi SD, Alghamdi SF, Albattah SN, Alenazi AM
Healthcare 2023 Dec;11(24):3137
clinical trial
9/10 [Eligibility criteria: Yes; Random allocation: Yes; Concealed allocation: Yes; Baseline comparability: Yes; Blind subjects: Yes; Blind therapists: No; Blind assessors: Yes; Adequate follow-up: Yes; Intention-to-treat analysis: Yes; Between-group comparisons: Yes; Point estimates and variability: Yes. Note: Eligibility criteria item does not contribute to total score] *This score has been confirmed*

BACKGROUND: Stroke and its associated complications are a major cause of long-term disability worldwide, with spasticity being a common and severe issue. Physical therapy, involving stretching exercises and electrical stimulation, is crucial for managing spasticity. Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the effects of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) combined with a conventional rehabilitation program (CRP) on plantarflexor muscle spasticity and walking performance among individuals with chronic stroke. METHODS: A pilot randomized clinical trial (RCT) with two groups (active NMES and placebo) was conducted at the physical therapy departments of King Fahad Specialist Hospital, Buraydah, and Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (November 2020). The assessor and participants were blinded for the group assignment. The active NMES group received exercise and stimulation at the dorsiflexor muscles on the paretic leg for 30 min for 12 sessions. The placebo group received exercise and sham stimulation at the same position and duration as the active group. Of interest were the outcomes for plantarflexor muscle spasticity measured by the modified Ashworth scale (MAS), gait speed measured by 10 m walk test (10-MWT), and functional mobility measured by functional ambulatory category (FAC). RESULTS: Nineteen participants were randomized into active NMES (n = 10) and sham NMES (n = 9) groups, with no significant baseline differences. Within the active NMES group, significant improvements were observed in MAS (p = 0.008), 10-MWT (p = 0.028), and FAC (p = 0.046), while only 10-MWT time improved significantly in the sham NMES group (p = 0.011). Between-group analysis showed that only MAS was significantly lower in the active NMES group (p = 0.006). Percent change analysis indicated a significantly higher increase in percent change for MAS in the active NMES group compared to the sham NMES group (p = 0.035), with no significant differences in other outcome measures. CONCLUSIONS: This study showed that NMES in the active group led to significant improvements in spasticity, walking performance, and functional ambulation. Further research is needed to determine the ideal parameters, protocols, and patient selection criteria for NMES interventions in stroke rehabilitation.

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