Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a technique that uses low-energy electrical pulses to artificially generate body movements in individuals who have been paralyzed due to injury to the central nervous system. More specifically, FES can be used to generate muscle contraction in otherwise paralyzed limbs to produce functions such as grasping, walking, bladder voiding and standing. This technology was originally used to develop neuroprostheses that were implemented to permanently substitute impaired functions in individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI), head injury, stroke and other neurological disorders. In other words, a person would use the device each time he or she wanted to generate a desired function. FES is sometimes also referred to as neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES).
FES technology has been used to deliver therapies to retrain voluntary motor functions such as grasping, reaching and walking. In this embodiment, FES is used as a short-term therapy, the objective of which is restoration of voluntary function and not lifelong dependence on the FES device, hence the name functional electrical stimulation therapy, FES therapy (FET or FEST). In other words, the FEST is used as a short-term intervention to help the central nervous system of the person to re-learn how to execute impaired functions, instead of making the person dependent on neuroprostheses for the rest of her or his life. Initial Phase II clinical trials conducted with FEST for reaching and grasping, and walking were carried out at KITE, the research arm of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
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