Functional Electronic Stimulation (FES)
Functional electronic stimulation (FES) uses the body’s existing nerves and muscles to create a desired contraction in the targeted muscle. Patients who have had an upper motor neurone injury, caused by stroke or cerebral palsy, can usually benefit.
FES works by sending an electrical impulse, either along a nerve that is located close to the surface of the skin, or through a muscle. When the impulse is passed through the muscle it causes a contraction. The big advantage of FES is that it uses the body’s existing muscular system to cause movement and control it; this means that an individual’s muscle strength can be increased or, at least, maintained.
There are also possible benefits to the sensory system. There is some evidence to suggest that FES can assist remyelination in conditions such as multiple sclerosis, or that it improves control by sending signals to the brain. Research is being carried out to validate this.
The London Orthotic Consultancy (LOC) uses a version of FES called MyGait produced by Otto Bock.
MyGait uses two channels to stimulate two different muscle groups, synchronising the stimulation to fine tune the gait cycle. It is the most advanced wireless FES system available.
At the initial consultation, an in-depth history of a patient’s neurological condition will be established. Range of movement, alignment and existing muscle power will be analysed while video gait analysis will study any areas of weakness in slow motion.
If an LOC clinician considers that an individual’s condition is appropriate for FES, then we will test the MyGait system. This involves applying electrodes to targeted areas of the body in order to create the desired muscle contractions. As anatomy can vary between individuals finding the perfect position for the electrodes can take some time. Your clinician will then test the signal from the electrodes and fine tune the type of muscle contraction that is required.
Once that has been successful, your clinician will use the system while you are walking. MyGait has very sophisticated software that allows fine tuning of both the timing and strength of the impulses wirelessly as the patient walks. It is possible to see immediate and remarkable improvements.
Images and information where supplied have been reproduced with the kind permission of Otto Bock Healthcare who own the copyright to all images and information.