Abdominal functional electrical stimulation to assist ventilator weaning in acute tetraplegia: a cohort study

Euan J. McCaughey, Helen R. Berry, Alan N. McLean, David B. Allan, Henrik Gollee

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8 Citations (Scopus)
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Severe impairment of the major respiratory muscles resulting from tetraplegia reduces respiratory function, causing many people with tetraplegia to require mechanical ventilation during the acute stage of injury. Abdominal Functional Electrical Stimulation (AFES) can improve respiratory function in non-ventilated patients with sub-acute and chronic tetraplegia. The aim of this study was to investigate the clinical feasibility of using an AFES training program to improve respiratory function and assist ventilator weaning in acute tetraplegia. AFES was applied for between 20 and 40 minutes per day, five times per week on four alternate weeks, with 10 acute ventilator dependent tetraplegic participants. Each participant was matched retrospectively with a ventilator dependent tetraplegic control, based on injury level, age and sex. Tidal Volume (VT) and Vital Capacity (VC) were measured weekly, with weaning progress compared to the controls. Compliance to training sessions was 96.7%. Stimulated VT was significantly greater than unstimulated VT. VT and VC increased throughout the study, with mean VC increasing significantly (VT: 6.2 mL/kg to 7.8 mL/kg VC: 12.6 mL/kg to 18.7 mL/kg). Intervention participants weaned from mechanical ventilation on average 11 (sd: ± 23) days faster than their matched controls. The results of this study indicate that AFES is a clinically feasible technique for acute ventilator dependent tetraplegic patients and that this intervention may improve respiratory function and enable faster weaning from mechanical ventilation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0128589
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2015


  • ventilators
  • abdominal muscles
  • muscle contraction
  • spinal cord injury


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