3. Abdominal FES.

3. Development of Abdominal FES device to improve respiratory function in acute SCI:  Abdominal FES.

Research Team.  PI:  Dr Henrik Gollee, Dr Mariel Purcell, Dr Chris Hawthorne

Location:  Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit,   Glasgow

Duration/Dates/Cost: 18 (+ 15) months August 2018 extended to November 2022          Total project costs: £112,332


Respiratory complications in SCI can be attributed to impaired respiratory function due to paralysis of the major respiratory muscles, including the abdominal muscles. Surface electrical stimulation of the abdominal muscles, termed Abdominal FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation), can activate the abdominal muscles, even when paralysed. We have previously shown that Abdominal FES improves respiratory function and assists ventilator weaning in spinal cord injury, and we hypothesise that Abdominal FES in acute spinal cord injured patients will improve expiratory muscle strength, reduce atrophy of the respiratory muscles, and prevent or reduce mechanical ventilation duration. In this study, abdominal FES technology will be developed as an intervention tool which can be integrated into acute clinical care. Using this technology, we will investigate the feasibility of using Abdominal FES as part of the standard acute care in a high-dependency setting to prevent mechanical ventilation, or, if mechanical ventilation is required, to reduce its duration.



Respiratory complications, resulting from reduced breathing function, are a major cause of morbidity and mortality, especially in the SCI population. Tetraplegic patients in the acute stage are particularly at risk of requiring mechanical ventilation. Even if patients eventually wean from mechanical ventilation, they are at increased risk of respiratory infections and rehabilitation progress is substantially delayed. Reducing the time when mechanical ventilation is required, or avoiding it altogether, will have a substantially positive effect on the outcome of rehabilitation and on the quality of life of patients.