Treatment of Hand Dysfunction After Stroke


Phase N/A Results

Trial Description

Many stroke survivors exhibit persistent upper limb motor deficits and a non-functional upper limb. There is some promising information that suggests motor learning (ML) in conjunction with functional electrical stimulation (FES; surface FES; nothing implanted; use of a commercially available system) of wrist/finger muscles can significantly enhance the functional level of the upper limb. There have been promising studies showing that some subjects in the chronic phase (greater than 6 months after stroke) responded favorably to combination FES and ML (FES ML). In our pilot studies, FES ML for those in the chronic phase (>12 months) produced statistically significant functional recovery. FES was applied using a commercially available, two-channel FES system, with electrodes applied to the surface of the skin (non-invasive). But if upper limb dysfunction is not immediately treated, that is within the sub-acute phase (less than 6 months) following stroke, the following problems can develop: contractures and other soft tissue changes; chronic pain; and ingrained, abnormal, non-functional movement patterns. The more long-standing these symptoms are, the more resistant to treatment they become. Therefore, it is important to provide promising interventions prior to the onset of chronic symptoms and dysfunction. Those in the sub-acute phase after stroke should be provided with FES ML, in order to more completely restore function for a greater number of stroke survivors.
Specific Aims and Hypotheses The goal of this pilot study is to test the feasibility of the proposed treatment in the sub acute phase following stroke.
HYPOTHESIS. FES ML for 3hrs/day, five days/week, for 12 weeks will be feasible to implement in the sub-acute phase following stroke (2 -24 weeks).
Study Design
a. Specific Procedures This is a pilot study to test the feasibility of using FES ML for upper extremity rehabilitation in a sub-acute stroke population. It is a randomized, controlled, single-blind design. Subjects will be 2 - 24 weeks after a single stroke. The control group will receive standard care for upper limb rehabilitation consisting of passive and active exercise, stretching, bracing, and use of adaptive devices. The experimental group will receive the experimental intervention in addition to their standard care.
CONTROL GROUP INTERVENTION. The control group will receive the standard medical care prescribed by the primary physician and covered by the subject's health care policy. Standard care will include: soft tissue mobilization; assisted motion exercise; active motion exercise; resistive exercise; task practice; use of assistive devices; and modality applications conventionally prescribed.
FES ML INTERVENTION. The research treatment duration will be 3hrs/day, five days per week. The subjects will be present for a fourth hour each day, which will be used for breaks and rest periods that will be interspersed throughout the intervention time. The treatment duration is derived from prior work. We will stimulate muscles in a number of configurations including: wrist extension and finger extension; wrist extension and finger flexion; and wrist extension, finger flexion, and thumb abduction and opposition. Motor learning will include the performance of functional task components and full task practice during the use of FES. FES will be triggered by the patient, the treating therapist, or it will be automatically sequenced by the device according to alternate channel activations, with timings pre-set by the treating therapist.
MEASURES. Data will be collected at weeks 1, 6, 12 (end of treatment), and 6 months after the end of treatment.
Population The subjects will be sub-acute stroke survivors (2-24 weeks after stroke).



  • Standard Care Behavioral
    Intervention Desc: Standard care as ordered by their physician and covered by their insurance company.
    ARM 1: Kind: Experimental
    Label: Control group
    Description: Subjects in this arm will receive standard care as prescribed by their physician and covered by their insurance
  • Functional Electrical Stimulation Device
    Intervention Desc: commercially available surface electrical stimulator
    ARM 1: Kind: Experimental
    Label: 1
    ARM 2: Kind: Experimental
    Label: Arm 1
    ARM 3: Kind: Experimental
    Label: FES and Motor Learning Training
    Description: participants <6 months after first stroke who presented with arm dysfunction were trained using FES and Motor Learning

Trial Design

  • Allocation: Randomized
  • Masking: Single Blind (Outcomes Assessor)
  • Purpose: Treatment
  • Endpoint: Efficacy Study
  • Intervention: Parallel Assignment


Type Measure Time Frame Safety Issue
Primary attrition rate end of study No
Primary Fugl-Meyer Upper Limb Coordination Scale (FMUE) baseline and after 12 weeks of training No