VA Center of Excellence in Functional Electrical Stimulation
FES for Spinal cord Injury
To control movement and perform basic bodily functions, electrical signals travel from the brain down through the spinal cord to the corresponding muscles or organs. This instantaneous communication occurs like a beautifully orchestrated symphony. When damage occurs to the spinal cord, these signals from the brain cannot reach the intended destination. The muscles and organs may be intact and healthy, but the brain cannot stimulate or control them. At present, damage to the spinal cord cannot be fully repaired but it can be by-passed. By applying a small electrical current to the nerve or muscle, the desired function can be triggered.
Stimulating the correct muscles can make a person's arm or leg move, while stimulation to the bladder or diaphragm can return a basic function. Using electricity to stimulate and control a part of the body is known as Functional Electrical Stimulation or FES. It is also called Functional Neural Stimulation or FNS.Over the past three decades of research FES has advanced by leaps and bounds. It can now be used to help people with spinal cord injury to move their arms or legs, control their bowel and bladder, treat or prevent pressure sores, and provide male erection and ejaculation. It can exercise muscles for greater strength and tone and improve circulation to minimize pressure sores. The programs of the Cleveland FES Center illustrate the breadth and depth of this technology being used to make a difference in the everyday life of people with disabilities.
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