Safety and Preliminary Efficacy of Functional Electrical Stimulation Cycling In an Individual With Cervical Cord Injury, Autonomic Dysreflexia, and a Pacemaker: Case Report

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Kinesiology and Nutrition


Context: Functional electric stimulation (FES) cycling is a commonly used therapeutic exercise modality after spinal cord injury (SCI); however, additional precautions must be taken in certain situations. The purpose of this study was to develop and apply a safety monitoring protocol for autonomic dysreflexia (AD) during FES cycling and to determine if an interval-FES cycling program can be safe and beneficial to an individual with cervical SCI, a history of AD, and a non-dependent cardiac pacemaker.

The participant was a 36-year-old male with C6 AIS-C SCI sustained 9 years earlier, intermittent AD, and implanted cardiac pacemaker. Ten sessions of interval-FES cycling were performed twice weekly for 5 weeks. Rating of perceived exertion (RPE), blood pressure (BP), oxygen saturation (O2sat), and heart rate (HR) were monitored before, after, and every 5 min during cycling. ECG and cardiac pacemaker were evaluated by a cardiologist after ending the program.

Findings: The participant reported self-limited chills 27 times over 10 sessions (19 “light”, 3 “moderate”, 5 “sharp”). Chills coincided with BP increases 59% of the time and their magnitudes moderately correlated (r = 0.32). The ECG was determined to be normal and the pacemaker fully functional at the end of the study, while blood glucose decreased (111–105 mg/dl), HbA1c levels increased (5.5–5.9%), and resting BP decreased (118/84–108/66 mmHg).

Conclusion/Clinical Relevance: A person with cervical SCI, symptomatic AD, and a non-dependent pacemaker can safely participate and benefit from the interval-FES cycling program provided adequate monitoring of symptoms and vital signs.

Publication Title

The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine

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