Use of electrical stimulation for people with spinal cord injury: A survey of occupational therapy practitioners

Timothy P. Dionne, James A. Lenker, Patrick Hennessy, Jane E. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Importance: When working with clients who have experienced spinal cord injury (SCI), occupational therapy practitioners can face challenges in achieving desired results during functional activity when using electrical stimulation (ES) interventions. In an effort to understand current practice, a survey study was conducted. Objective: For people with SCI, ES elicits positive physiological effects; however, no implementation guidelines exist for upper extremity application of ES for this population. Therefore, we surveyed occupational therapy practitioners about their use of ES with clients who have cervical-level SCI. Design: A 33-item, 20-min online survey was used. Participants and Setting: We queried 57 occupational therapy practitioners with active caseloads in regional rehabilitation centers specializing in SCI, both outpatient and inpatient. Results: For clients with SCI, occupational therapy practitioners used ES most often for grasp-and-release, reaching, and grip or pinch activities using a broad range of parameter settings. Among respondents, 43% did not use a specific treatment protocol; 27% used research evidence to guide selection of parameters. Conclusions and Relevance: Findings suggest that ES treatment parameters are not uniformly applied, introducing potential unknown effects on client outcomes and undermining treatment fidelity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number035584
JournalAmerican Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Occupational Therapy


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