Strengthening of Partially Denervated Knee Extensors Using Percutaneous Electric Stimulation in a Young Man With Spinal Cord Injury


      Johnston TE, Smith BT, Betz RR. Strengthening of partially denervated knee extensors using percutaneous electric stimulation in a young man with spinal cord injury.


      To evaluate the effects of percutaneous electric stimulation on knee extensor strength and muscle hypertrophy, gait, and energy cost of walking in a young man with partial denervation of the knee extensors.


      One-way repeated measures.


      Pediatric orthopedic hospital.


      A man in his early twenties, who had an L2 American Spinal Injury Association class D spinal cord injury, presented with strength deficits in his left knee extensors and reported falling frequently. When walking, his left knee remained locked in extension throughout stance. Electromyographic testing revealed chronic denervation and reinnervation changes.


      Because of sensory difficulties with surface stimulation, a percutaneous electrode was surgically implanted near the femoral nerve. The subject exercised isometrically with a research grade stimulator for 1 hour a day until his strength plateaued.

      Main outcome measures

      Quadriceps femoris strength and hypertrophy, gait, and energy cost of walking were recorded preintervention, every 2 months during the strengthening phase, and 2 months after withdrawal.


      Voluntary isometric torque improved from 7 to 14.8Nm (112%) and decreased to 8.5Nm after stimulation was withdrawn. Mean circumferential measures of the thigh improved from 12.3 to 13.5cm (9.8%) and then decreased to 13.1cm. Gait kinematics and kinetics were unchanged, although the subject reported greater stability in his left knee and fewer falls.


      The study indicates that percutaneous electric stimulation could be used to strengthen partially denervated muscle and to affect function. However, gains in strength may not be maintained once treatment is withdrawn.

      Key words

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