Repetitive sensory stimulation (RSS) adapts the timing of stimulation protocols used in cellular studies to induce synaptic plasticity. In healthy subjects, RSS leads to widespread sensorimotor cortical reorganization paralleled by improved sensorimotor behavior. Here, we investigated whether RSS reduces sensorimotor upper limb impairment in patients with subacute stroke more effectively than conventional therapy.
A single-blinded sham-controlled clinical trial assessed the effectiveness of RSS in treating sensorimotor deficits of the upper limbs. Patients with subacute unilateral ischemic stroke were randomly assigned to receive standard therapy in combination with RSS or with sham RSS. Patients were masked to treatment allocation. RSS consisted of intermittent 20 Hz electrical stimulation applied on the affected hand for 45 min/day, 5 days per week, for 2 weeks, and was transmitted using custom-made stimulation-gloves with built-in electrodes contacting each fingertip separately. Before and after the intervention, we assessed light-touch and tactile discrimination, proprioception, dexterity, grip force, and subtasks of the Jebsen Taylor hand-function test for the non-affected and the affected hand. Data from these quantitative tests were combined into a total performance index serving as primary outcome measure. In addition, tolerability and side effects of RSS intervention were recorded.
Seventy one eligible patients were enrolled and randomly assigned to receive RSS treatment (n = 35) or sham RSS (n = 36). Data of 25 patients were not completed because they were transferred to another hospital, resulting in n = 23 for each group. Before treatment, sensorimotor performance between groups was balanced (p = 0.237). After 2 weeks of the intervention, patients in the group receiving standard therapy with RSS showed significantly better restored sensorimotor function than the control group (standardized mean difference 0.57; 95% CI -0.013–1.16; p = 0.027) RSS treatment was superior in all domains tested. Repetitive sensory stimulation was well tolerated and accepted, and no adverse events were observed.
Rehabilitation including RSS enhanced sensorimotor recovery more effectively than standard therapy alone. Rehabilitation outcome between the effects of RSS and standard therapy was largest for sensory and motor improvement; however, the results for proprioception and everyday tasks were encouraging warranting further studies in more severe patients.
The trial was retrospectively registered January 31, 2012 under DRKS00003515 (https://www.drks.de/drks_web/navigate.do;jsessionid=AEE2585CCB82A22A2B285470B37C47C8?navigationId=results).
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- Daily repetitive sensory stimulation of the paretic hand for the treatment of sensorimotor deficits in patients with subacute stroke: RESET, a randomized, sham-controlled trial
Jan C. Kattenstroth
Hubert R. Dinse
- BioMed Central
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