Functional neuromuscular stimulator for short-distance ambulation by certain thoracic-level spinal-cord-injured paraplegics.


BACKGROUND Functional Neuromuscular Stimulation (FNS) for unbraced short-distance ambulation by traumatic complete/near-complete T4 to T12 paraplegics is based on work by Graupe et al (1982), Kralj et al (1980), Liberson et al (1961), and others. This paper discusses methodology, performance, training, admissibility criteria, and medical observations for FNS-ambulation using the Parastep-I system, which is the first and only such system to have received FDA approval (1994) and which emanated from these previous works. METHOD The Parastep system is a transcutaneous non-invasive and microcomputerized electrical stimulation system built into a Walkman-size unit powered by eight AA batteries that is controlled by finger-touch buttons located on a walker's handbars for manual selection of stimulation menus. The microcomputer shapes, controls, and distributes trains of stimulation signals that trigger action potentials in selected peripheral nerves. Walker support is used for balance. The patient can don the system in under 10 minutes. At least 32 training sessions are required. RESULTS Approximately 400 patients have used the Parastep system, essentially all achieving standing and at least 30 feet of ambulation, with a few reaching as much as 1 mile at a time. Recent literature presents data on the medical benefits of using the Parastep system-beyond the exercise benefits of short distance ambulation at will-such as increased blood flow to the lower extremities, lower HR at subpeak work intensities, increased peak work capability, reduced spasticity, and psychological benefits. CONCLUSIONS We believe that the Parastep FNS system, which is presently commercially available by prescription, is easily usable for independent short-distance ambulation. We believe that its exercise benefits and its other medical and psychological benefits, as discussed, make it an important option for thoracic-level traumatic paraplegics.

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@article{Graupe1998FunctionalNS, title={Functional neuromuscular stimulator for short-distance ambulation by certain thoracic-level spinal-cord-injured paraplegics.}, author={Daniel Graupe and Kathl{\'e}n Kohn}, journal={Surgical neurology}, year={1998}, volume={50 3}, pages={202-7} }