Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) in Stroke Patients with Oral and Pharyngeal Dysfunction.
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Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) technique is a dual-channel electrotherapy system designed specifically for the treatment of pharyngeal dysfunction. The purpose of this study was to evaluate and compare the outcome of NMES versus traditional swallowing therapy (TT) in stroke patients. Three European swallowing centers participated in this randomized trial. Twenty-five patients (16 men and 9 women) were included. Twelve patients were randomized for NMES and 13 for TT. Mean age was 70 years for the NMES group and 71 years for the TT group. Inclusion criteria were (1) patients 50-80 years old with cerebrovascular disease (stroke) for more than 3 months before the study, (2) only patients with hemispheric stroke, (3) no brainstem involvement, (4) ability to swallow, and (5) ability to communicate. Pre- and post-trial measurements were videoradiographic swallowing evaluation, nutritional status, oral motor function test, and a visual analog scale (VAS) for self-evaluation of complaints. All subjects received 15 therapy sessions. Statistically significant positive therapy effects for both NMES and TT combined were found, but there was no statistically significant difference in therapy effect between the groups. The correlations between measurements were low. The patient's subjective experience of improvement had low correlation with the outcome from the objective evaluation.