Chronic muscle stimulation improves ischaemic muscle performance in patients with peripheral vascular disease
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There is currently no established treatment for intermittent claudication with proven long term benefit. Exercise classes have been shown to improve walking distance. Chronic electromyostimulation (CEMS) a method of stimulating skeletal muscle has effects on normal muscle which may also benefit claudicants. We investigated the effects of one month of CEMS on claudicants in a single blind placebo controlled study. Patients were randomised to either CEMS (treatment) or transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TENS) placebo. The effects of the two modalities were assessed using the conventional measures of claudicating distance (CD), maximum walking distance (MWD), ankle-brachial pressure index (ABPI) and pressure recovery time (PRT). Muscle performance was assessed by the fatigue index (FI) a technique determining the decrease in ischaemic muscle response to repeated contraction. After 4 weeks treatment the CEMS group showed significant improvements in their median CD (88 to 111) and MWD (118 to 158); this was not seen in the control group. Muscle performance also increased significantly during the 4 weeks of treatment in the CEMS group but not in the control group. These changes were not maintained after CEMS was stopped. This pilot study suggests that CEMS may well have a role to play in the treatment of intermittent claudication though a number of further studies need to be undertaken.
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