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Volume 44 Number 3 2007
Pages 333 — 346


Abstract - Walking after incomplete spinal cord injury using an implanted FES system: A case report

Elizabeth Hardin, PhD;* Rudi Kobetic, MS; Lori Murray, PT, MS; Michelle Corado-Ahmed, PT, MS; Gilles Pinault, MD; Jonathan Sakai, MME; Stephanie Nogan Bailey, BSE; Chester Ho, MD; Ronald J. Triolo, PhD

Cleveland FES Center, Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Cleveland, OH

Abstract — Implanted functional electrical stimulation (FES) systems for walking are experimentally available to individuals with incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI); however, data on short-term therapeutic and functional outcomes are limited. The goal of this study was to quantify therapeutic and functional effects of an implanted FES system for walking after incomplete cervical SCI. After robotic-assisted treadmill training and overground gait training maximized his voluntary function, an individual with incomplete SCI (American Spinal Injury Association grade C, cervical level 6-7) who could stand volitionally but not step was surgically implanted with an 8-channel receiver stimulator and intramuscular electrodes. Electrodes were implanted bilaterally, recruiting iliopsoas, vastus intermedius and lateralis, tensor fasciae latae, tibialis anterior, and peroneus longus muscles. Twelve weeks of training followed limited activity post-surgery. Customized stimulation patterns addressed gait deficits via an external control unit. The system was well-tolerated and reliable. After the 12-week training, maximal walking distance increased (from 14 m to 309 m), maximal walking speed was 10 times greater (from 0.02 m/s to 0.20 m/s), and physiological cost index was 5 times less (from 44.4 beats/m to 8.6 beats/m). Voluntary locomotor function was unchanged. The implanted FES system was well-tolerated, reliable, and supplemented function, allowing the participant limited community ambulation. Physiological effort decreased and maximal walking distance increased dramatically over 12 weeks.

Key words: ambulation, FES, functional outcomes, locomotion, neurological gait disorders, physiological cost index, rehabilitation, spinal cord injury, stimulation, walking.

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