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doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2012.11.063; PubMed Central: PMCID 3592334
Upper extremity (UE) hemiparesis persists after stroke, limiting hand function. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is an effective intervention to improve UE recovery, although the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Our objective was to establish a reliable protocol to measure UE agonist–antagonist forearm monosynaptic reflexes in a pilot study to determine if NMES improves wrist function after stroke. We established the between-day reliability of the H-reflex in the extensor carpi radialis longus (ECRL) and flexor carpi radialis (FCR) musculature for individuals with prior stroke (n = 18). The same-day generation of ECRL/FCR H-reflex recruitment curves was well tolerated, regardless of age or UE spasticity. The between-day reliability of the ECRL H-reflex was enhanced above FCR, similar to healthy subjects , with the Hmax the most reliable parameter quantified in both muscles. H-reflex and functional measures following NMES show the potential for NMES-induced increases in ECRL Hmax, but confirmation requires a larger clinical study. Our initial results support the safe, easy, and efficacious use of in-home NMES, and establish a potential method to measure UE monosynaptic reflexes after stroke.