To compare the outcome of an early application of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) combined with traditional dysphagia therapy (TDT) versus traditional dysphagia therapy only in acute/subacute ischemic stroke patients with moderate to severe dysphagia by videofluoroscopic swallowing study (VFSS).
Fifty-seven dysphagic stroke patients were enrolled in a VFSS within 10 days after stroke onset. Patients were randomly assigned into two treatment groups. Thirty-one patients received NMES combined with TDT (NMES/TDT group) and 26 patients received TDT only (TDT group). Electrical stimulation with a maximal tolerable intensity was applied on both suprahyoid muscles for 30 minutes, 5 days per week during 3 weeks. The swallowing function was evaluated at baseline and 3, 6, and 12 weeks after baseline. Outcomes of the VFSS were assessed using the Functional Oral Intake Scale (FOIS).
The mean ages were 63.5±11.4 years in the NMES/TDT group and 66.7±9.5 years in the TDT group. Both groups showed a significant improvement on the FOIS after treatment. The FOIS score was significantly more improved at 3 and 6 weeks after baseline in the NMES/TDT group than in the TDT group (p<0.05).
An early application of NMES combined with TDT showed a positive effect in acute/subacute ischemic stroke patients with dysphagia. These results indicated that the early application of NMES could be used as a supplementary treatment of TDT to help rehabilitate acute/subacute dysphagic stroke patients by improving their swallowing coordination.