13 – A systematic exploration of Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation in Spinal Cord Injury: Users’ perspectives of current and future use

A systematic exploration of Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation in Spinal Cord Injury: users’ perspectives of current and future use

Southampton University, Award: £79,776, Date of Award: 8 Dec 05

For nearly half a century Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) has been used in the treatment and management of physical problems encountered by people with SCI. Applications have encompassed bladder and bowel control, pain, movement, tissue viability and musculoskeletal and cardio-respiratory function. Techniques have been developed, evaluated and in some cases commercialised, yet currently reach only a small fraction of the SCI community. While techniques have evolved to be more effective and technically sophisticated they have often undergone phases of great popularity followed by periods of rejection. Popularity has often been associated with highly active research groups and faded with loss of funding of research or a failure to achieve technology or clinical transfer. There is a dearth of good clinical evaluation partly because of small patient numbers.

Those who have been involved with the clinical use of NMES have little doubt of its potential to improve the lives of people with SCI, yet are frustrated by the apparent inability to transfer research into clinical practice. We therefore must question whether we can ignore the opinions of the people involved – people with SCI, their families and healthcare professionals; both those who do and those who do not use NMES. The perspective of these groups is vital in directing research, developing NHS services, and driving commercialisation.  In order to gain an understanding of the perspective of people with SCI, their partners, healthcare professionals and researchers a specific research approach needs to be employed.