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Patient and carer experiences of functional electrical stimulation.

By Catherine Bulley, Lisa Salisbury, J Shiels, K Wilkie and C McGuire


Background: Stroke is a prevalent cause of mortality and morbidity in the UK; up to 20% of those affected are left with dropped foot: weakness or paralysis of the muscles that lift the foot1. This can make walking more tiring and increase the risk of falls. The drawbacks of management with splints have led to the innovation of Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES). This uses electrical impulses through external electrodes to stimulate the required movement for walking. There is a need for evidence of its impacts on function and quality of life.\ud Aim: This study aimed to qualitatively explore the impacts of prolonged use (more than six months) on the lives of chronic stroke patients and their carers. \ud Method: Semi-structured interviews were carried out within the framework of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis2. Purposive sampling ensured varied experiences, targeting ten patients and ten carers. The topic guide focused on function and participation since the stroke and the impacts of strategies used to manage dropped foot, including FES. Questions also addressed the process of learning to use FES and support provided. Systematic thematic analysis grouped text units with similar meaning into themes, and sought evidence of relationships between themes. Rigour was enhanced through participant verification and a cross-checking of the thematic analysis by other members of the research team.\ud Findings: Results will be presented in relation to the research aim. This insight into the use and impacts of FES is important to inform future service provision and development taking into account the patients perspective

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