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18.07.2018 | Review Article | Ausgabe 12/2018

Supportive Care in Cancer 12/2018

The efficacy and prescription of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) in adult cancer survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Supportive Care in Cancer > Ausgabe 12/2018
Dominic O’Connor, Brian Caulfield, Olive Lennon



This study aims to (1) summarise and critically evaluate the effects of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) on indices of health and quality of life (QoL) in adult cancer survivors, (2) assess the safety of NMES as a rehabilitation method in this population, and (3) identify commonly used NMES treatment parameters and describe treatment progression.


A systematic search of four electronic databases targeted studies evaluating the effects of NMES on physical function, aerobic fitness, muscle strength, body composition, and health-related quality of life (HR-QoL) in adult cancer survivors, published through March 2018. Two reviewers independently reviewed and appraised the risk of bias of each study.


Nine studies were included. Meta-analyses found that the overall pooled effect favoured NMES for improving muscle strength, but the standardised mean difference was not significant (0.36; 95% CI − 0.25, 0.96). Further meta-analyses indicated that NMES significantly improved HR-QoL (0.36; 95% CI 0.10, 0.62), with notable gains identified under the subcategories QoL Function (0.87; 95% CI 0.32, 1.42). Current NMES prescription is not standardised and NMES is prescribed to target secondary complications of treatment. Risk of bias was high for most studies.


NMES use in adult cancer survivors is an emerging field and current literature is limited by studies of poor quality and a lack of adequately powered RCTs. Existing evidence suggests that NMES is safe and may be more effective than usual care for improving HR-QoL. Prescription and progression should be tailored for the individual based on functional deficits.

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