A systematic review on functional electrical stimulation based rehabilitation systems for upper limb post-stroke recovery

Muhammad Ahmed Khan*, Hoda Fares, Hemant Ghayvat, Iris Charlotte Brunner, Sadasivan Puthusserypady, Babak Razavi, Maarten Lansberg, Ada Poon, Kimford Jay Meador

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewpeer-review

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Background: Stroke is one of the most common neurological conditions that often leads to upper limb motor impairments, significantly affecting individuals' quality of life. Rehabilitation strategies are crucial in facilitating post-stroke recovery and improving functional independence. Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) systems have emerged as promising upper limb rehabilitation tools, offering innovative neuromuscular reeducation approaches. Objective: The main objective of this paper is to provide a comprehensive systematic review of the start-of-the-art functional electrical stimulation (FES) systems for upper limb neurorehabilitation in post-stroke therapy. More specifically, this paper aims to review different types of FES systems, their feasibility testing, or randomized control trials (RCT) studies. Methods: The FES systems classification is based on the involvement of patient feedback within the FES control, which mainly includes “Open-Loop FES Systems” (manually controlled) and “Closed-Loop FES Systems” (brain-computer interface-BCI and electromyography-EMG controlled). Thus, valuable insights are presented into the technological advantages and effectiveness of Manual FES, EEG-FES, and EMG-FES systems. Results and discussion: The review analyzed 25 studies and found that the use of FES-based rehabilitation systems resulted in favorable outcomes for the stroke recovery of upper limb functional movements, as measured by the FMA (Fugl-Meyer Assessment) (Manually controlled FES: mean difference = 5.6, 95% CI (3.77, 7.5), P < 0.001; BCI-controlled FES: mean difference = 5.37, 95% CI (4.2, 6.6), P < 0.001; EMG-controlled FES: mean difference = 14.14, 95% CI (11.72, 16.6), P < 0.001) and ARAT (Action Research Arm Test) (EMG-controlled FES: mean difference = 11.9, 95% CI (8.8, 14.9), P < 0.001) scores. Furthermore, the shortcomings, clinical considerations, comparison to non-FES systems, design improvements, and possible future implications are also discussed for improving stroke rehabilitation systems and advancing post-stroke recovery. Thus, summarizing the existing literature, this review paper can help researchers identify areas for further investigation. This can lead to formulating research questions and developing new studies aimed at improving FES systems and their outcomes in upper limb rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1272992
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Functional electrical stimulation (FES)
  • Post-stroke therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Stroke
  • Stroke rehabilitation systems
  • Upper limb neurorehabilitation


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