Journal article

Spatially Distributed Sequential Stimulation Reduces Fatigue in Paralyzed Triceps Surae Muscles: A Case Study

Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is limited by the rapid onset of muscle fatigue caused by localized nerve excitation repeatedly activating only a subset of motor units. The purpose of this study was to investigate reducing fatigue by sequentially changing, pulse by pulse, the area of stimulation using multiple surface electrodes that cover the same area as one electrode during conventional stimulation. Paralyzed triceps surae muscles of an individual with complete spinal cord injury were stimulated, via the tibial nerve, through four active electrodes using spatially distributed sequential stimulation (SDSS) that was delivered by sending a stimulation pulse to each electrode one after another with 90 degrees phase shift between successive electrodes. For comparison, single electrode stimulation was delivered through one active electrode. For both modes of stimulation, the resultant frequency to the muscle as a whole was 40 Hz. Isometric ankle torque was measured during fatiguing stimulations lasting 2 min. Each mode of stimulation was delivered a total of six times over 12 separate days. Three fatigue measures were used for comparison: fatigue index (final torque normalized to maximum torque), fatigue time (time for torque to drop by 3 dB), and torque-time integral (over the entire trial). The measures were all higher during SDSS (P < 0.001), by 234, 280, and 171%, respectively. The results are an encouraging first step toward addressing muscle fatigue, which is one of the greatest problems for FES.


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