We are proud to announce that we are able to provide Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) assessments and fitting in partnership with Odtsock Medical Limited
What is FES
FES is a treatment that creates small pulses of electrical stimulation to the nerves of a paralysed muscles. FES uses small electrical pulses to stimulate the nerves in the leg, causing the muscles to contract an produce a movement that can help walking. The most common use of FES treatment is for drop foot where disruptions in the nerve pathways between the legs and brain causes the front of the foot to drop and cannot be lifted to correct the angle when walking.
The FES device usually consists of a control box, which is worn around your waist or leg and connected to the control box is a sensor worn in your shoe which detects pressure changes as the foot starts to move, this signals the electrodes attached to the skin below the knee to supply a pulse to the muscles to help lift the foot to the correct angle for taking a step and to prevent it dragging on the ground.
FES has other uses in rehabilitation, complementing physiotherapy, often to assist with movements in muscles that have become weak. This allows for the build up strength and range of movement and possibly help with reducing spasticity and swelling.
Who can use FES
FES is designed to stimulate the existing nerves in the leg, it is important that your fibres between the spinal cord and the muscles are not damaged. To be suitable for the treatment, you need to be able to walk, even if only for a few meters with stick or crutch.
The process will start with an assessment that last for an hour, this is to assess your suitability for the treatment and if you respond to FES stimulation. If you respond then you can start the treatment process. Our Neuro Physiotherapist will set up the device with you and teach you how to use it. You may find it difficult and time consuming at first to put the device on and position the pads correctly, but this becomes easier with practice.
Although FES can be used to make the most of your walking, it does not improve the signal your nerves send without simulator and does not protect your nerve pathways from further deterioration. This could mean there will come a point when FES is no longer effective for you.
Every step is taken to carefully assess before treatment and some find they get no benefit from FES or they find it difficult to use. Some people have difficulty using the stimulator or placing the electrodes correctly. Other do not like the sensation of the stimulation.
If FES is not suitable there are other alternatives that may help such as ankle foot orthotic (AFO) or physiotherapy.
What side effect could I expect?
The stimulation can cause a tingling ‘pins & needles’ or buzzing sensation on the skin. Ensuring the wires and pads are in the correct positions can help minimise some of the sensations. For most people this is not a problem, but some can find the effect uncomfortable.
How to get FES treatment?
You can either go privately or via the NHS.
In January 2009, NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) issued guidance that FES can be offered routinely as a treatment option for people with foot drop caused by damage to the brain or spinal cord if the health professional considers it is appropriate. Decisions about whether to fund the cost of FES are taken by local NHS bodies, such as the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) or Health Board.
An assessment by a health professional trained in the use of FES is required to ensure that the treatment will be suitable for you. The health professional will also teach you to place the pads correctly so the FES works as well as possible and that the equipment is being used most effectively.