Chronic transcutaneous electrical stimulation of calf muscles improves functional capacity without inducing systemic inflammation in cladicants

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • P Whatling
  • Olga Hudlicka
  • Peter Gosling
  • Malcolm Simms


Objectives. To assess whether electrical stimulation of ischaemic calf muscles in claudicants causes a systemic inflammatory response and to evaluate effects of its chronic application on muscle function and walking ability. Design. Prospective randomised controlled trial of calf muscle stimulation. Materials and methods. Stable claudicants were randomised to receive either active chronic low frequency (6 Hz) motor stimulation (n = 15) or, as a control treatment, submotor transcutaneous electrical nerve (TENS) stimulation (n = 15) of calf muscles in one leg, 3 x 20 min per day for four weeks. Leucocyte activation was quantified by changes in cell morphology, vascular permeability by urinary albumin:creatinine ratio (ACR), calf muscle function by isometric twitch contractions and walking ability by treadmill performance pre- and post-intervention. Results. Acute active muscle stimulation activated leucocytes less (28% increase) than a standard treadmill test (81% increase) and did not increase ACR. Chronic calf muscle stimulation significantly increased pain free walking distance by 35 m (95% CI 17, 52, P <0.001) and maximum walking distance by 39 m (95% CI 7, 70, P <0.05) while control treatment had no effect. Active stimulation prevented fatigue of calf muscles during isometric electrically evoked contractions by abolishing the slowing of relaxation that was responsible for loss of force. Conclusions. Chronic electrical muscle stimulation is an effective treatment for alleviating intermittent claudication which, by targeted activation of a small muscle mass, does not engender a significant systemic inflammatory response.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-209
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004


  • leucocyte activation, muscle stimulation, intermittent claudication