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Volume 40 Number 5, September/October 2003
Pages 443 — 454

Clinical evaluation of functional electrical therapy in acute hemiplegic subjects

Mirjana B. Popovic, PhD; Dejan B. Popovic, PhD, DrTech; Thomas Sinkjśr, PhD, DrMed;
Aleksandra Stefanovic, MD; Laszlo Schwirtlich, PhD, MD

Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction (SMI), Aalborg University, Denmark; Institute for Rehabilitation "Dr. Miroslav Zotovic," Belgrade, Yugoslavia; Center for Multidisciplinary Studies, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Abstract — This paper describes a clinical randomized single-blinded study of the effects of Functional Electrical Therapy (FET) on the paretic arms of subjects with acute hemiplegia caused by strokes. FET is an exercise program that comprises voluntary arm movements and opening, closing, holding, and releasing of objects that are assisted by a neural prosthesis (electrical stimulation). FET consisted of a 30 min everyday exercise for 3 consecutive weeks in addition to conventional therapy. Twenty-eight acute hemiplegic subjects participated in a 6 mo study. The subjects were divided into lower functioning groups (LFGs) and higher functioning groups (HFGs) based on their capacity to voluntarily extend the wrist and fingers against the gravity, and were randomly assigned to controls or FET groups. The outcomes included the Upper Extremity Function Test, the coordination of elbow and shoulder movements, spasticity of key muscles of the paretic arm, and Reduced Upper Extremity Motor Activity Log. FET and control groups showed a recovery trend in all outcome measures. The gains in FET groups were much larger compared with the gains in control groups. The speed of recovery in FET groups was substantially faster compared with the recovery rate in control groups during the first 3 weeks (treatment). The LFG subjects showed less improvement than the HFG in both the FET and control groups.

Key words: acute hemiplegia, electrical stimulation, exercise, paretic arm and hand, therapy.

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