• Research type

    Research Study

  • Full title

    Quadriceps neuromuscular electrical stimultaion (NMES) as an adjunct to pulmonary rehabilitation in patients with COPD and quadriceps weakness - a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial.



  • Contact name

    William Man

  • Contact email

  • Sponsor organisation

    Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust

  • Duration of Study in the UK

    3 years, 0 months, 0 days

  • Research summary

    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a disease of the lungs that results in narrowing of the airways. Although mainly a disease of the lungs, research has shown that the leg muscles in patients with COPD are weaker than those in healthy people of a similar age. Leg muscle weakness in COPD has been shown to reduce exercise ability, which can affect independence and quality of life. Currently the only effective treatment at reversing muscle weakness in patients with COPD is through Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PR). PR is a supervised programme that consists of exercise training and education and has been shown to improve exercise capacity and quality of life; however the effects of PR on muscle strength are modest.

    In patients who have muscle weakness, neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) may offer a means of enhancing muscle strength. NMES uses a small battery-operated machine and pads, which are placed over each thigh to produce a comfortable stimulation of the underlying muscles. Several small research studies have shown that using NMES in patients with COPD has improved leg muscle strength. However, there is very little data examining the role of NMES in enhancing the benefits of PR. Therefore we want to examine whether NMES of the thigh muscle in addition to PR can increase leg muscle strength and function more than PR alone in people with COPD.

    In addition to an 8-week PR programme, 108 patients with COPD will be randomly allocated to receive either active or “sham” NMES. Participants will receive 30 minutes of daily stimulation for 8 weeks and the level of stimulation will be set either to allow muscle contraction or to provide skin sensation only. We will measure cycling time, leg muscle strength, change in thigh-muscle size, walking ability and quality of life before and after PR.

  • REC name

    London - Riverside Research Ethics Committee

  • REC reference


  • Date of REC Opinion

    19 Nov 2017

  • REC opinion

    Favourable Opinion