Original Article

Neuromuscular electrical stimulation improves exercise capacity in adult patients with chronic lung disease: a meta-analysis of English studies

Haihong Gong, Qinghe Jiang, Dongchao Shen, Jinming Gao


Background: Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) has been suggested as an alternative rehabilitative therapy to enhance exercise performance and skeletal muscle function in adult patients with chronic lung disease. However, the results of individual studies have been inconsistent. We performed a meta-analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of NMES with regard to increasing exercise capacity, quadriceps strength, muscle mass, cross-sectional area, and quality of life and decreasing dyspnea in adult patients with chronic lung disease.
Methods: A systematic search was conducted of the PubMed, Cochrane Library and EMBASE databases for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published in English-language journals before January 2018. Data were extracted using standardized forms, and the weighted mean difference (WMD) or standardized mean difference (SMD) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) was calculated.
Results: Eleven RCTs involving 368 patients were included in this meta-analysis. The pooled results showed that NMES significantly improved the 6-min walk distance (WMD: 37.93 m, 95% CI: 19.53–56.33 m; P<0.0001; P for heterogeneity =0.11; I2=47%) but not the incremental shuttle walk test (WMD: 18.18 m, 95% CI: −79.41 to 115.77 m, P=0.72; P for heterogeneity <0.0001, I2=94%) or endurance shuttle walk test (ESWT) (WMD: 96.73 m, 95% CI: −45.58 to 239.03 m, P=0.18; P heterogeneity =0.22, I2=34%). Moreover, NMES was associated with a significant improvement in quadriceps strength (SMD: 1.14, 95% CI: 0.86–1.43, P<0.00001; P heterogeneity =0.02, I2=58%).
Conclusions: This systemic review and meta-analysis provided evidence supporting the beneficial role of NMES in improving exercise capacity in patients with chronic respiratory disease.

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