This study aimed to investigate (i) the effect of functional electrical stimulation (FES) in improving activity and (ii) whether FES is more effective than training alone? Review protocol available from http://www.crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPERO/display_record.asp?ID=CRD42012003054. Eighteen trials (19 comparisons) were eligible for inclusion in the review. FES had a moderate effect on activity (SMD 0.40, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.72) compared with no or placebo intervention. FES had a moderate effect on activity (SMD 0.56, 95% CI 0.29 to 0.92) in comparison to training alone. When subgroup analyses were performed, FES had a large effect on upper limb activity (SMD 0.69, 95% CI 0.33 to 1.05) and a small effect on walking speed (MD 0.08 m/s, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.15) compared with any control.
FES seems to moderately improve activity compared with both no intervention and training alone. These findings indicate that FES should be used in stroke rehabilitation to improve the ability to perform activities.