Content » Vol 32, Issue 1

Original report

Functional electrical stimulation-assisted walking for persons with incomplete spinal injuries: longitudinal changes in maximal overground walking speed

Ladouceur M, Barbeau H.
School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada
DOI: 10.1080/165019772000322836


This study investigated the changes in maximal overground walking speed (MOWS) that occurred during walking training with a functional electrical stimulation (FES) orthosis by chronic spinal cord injured persons with incomplete motor function loss. The average walking speed over a distance of 10 m was calculated while the participants (n = 14) used their FES orthosis with and without power as well as with the various ambulatory assistive devices available. Within the first year of use, walking with an FES orthosis facilitated use of more advanced ambulatory assistive devices (10/14), improvements in functional mobility (12/14) and increases in the combined (0.26 m/s) and therapeutic (0.25 m/s) MOWS that were correlated (combined: r = 0.57; therapeutic: r = 0.69) with their respective initial MOWS. A longitudinal analysis showed that increases in MOWS followed a pattern of changes best described by either an exponential association (8/12) or a linear (4/12) model. These changes were similar for the combined and therapeutic MOWS (7/11) as well as for the different ambulatory assistive devices (8/9). It is concluded that the increased MOWS during walking training using the FES orthosis is mostly due to a therapeutic effect, implying that mechanisms of plasticity occur during such a training paradigm.

Lay Abstract


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