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FES to improve gait in children with cerebral palsy

Published June 2017

Download the full evidence summary PDF: FES Cerebral Palsy‌

What were we asked?

A physiotherapist asked us whether there is any evidence that Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) is effective for improving the gait (walking pattern) of children with cerebral palsy in Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) levels I and II, who walk independently.

Key findings

  • Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a way to stimulate nerves to make specific muscles contract during a particular activity such as walking.
  • Most research has focused on using FES to help the foot clear the ground when walking.
  • FES is only appropriate for children with an adequate range of motion to alter their walking pattern.
  • There is limited evidence that FES improves walking patterns in some children with cerebral palsy.
  • There is better evidence for improvement in ankle movement, strength, balance, and range of motion. However, it is unclear whether FES is more or less effective than other treatment options.
  • FES is generally well-tolerated, but it can be uncomfortable or burdensome to some children.
  • More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of FES for children with cerebral palsy.
  • An assessment and a chance to try a device in a specialist clinic can help to determine if it is likely to help.

Note: This information is produced by PenCRU researchers and reviewed by external experts. The views expressed are those of PenCRU at the University of Exeter Medical School and do not represent the views of the Cerebra charity, or any other parties mentioned. We strongly recommend seeking medical advice before undertaking any treatments/therapies.