Objective. Incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) patients have the potential to regain some ambulatory function, and optimal reorganization of remaining circuits can contribute to this recovery. We hypothesized that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) may promote active recovery of motor function during gait rehabilitation. Methods. A total of 17 incomplete SCI patients were randomized to receive active rTMS or sham stimulation coupled with rehabilitation therapy; 3 patients who began in the sham group crossed over to the active rTMS group after a washout period of more than 3 weeks. Active rTMS consisted of 15 daily sessions over the leg motor area (at 20 Hz). We compared lower-extremity motor score (LEMS), 10-m walking test for walking speed, timed up and go, Walking Index for SCI Scale, Modified Ashworth Scale, and Spinal Cord Injury Spasticity Evaluation Tool at baseline, after the last session, and 2 weeks later in the active rTMS and sham stimulation groups. Results. A significant improvement was observed after the last rTMS session in the active group for LEMS, walking speed, and spasticity. Improvement in walking speed was maintained during the follow-up period. Sham stimulation did not induce any improvement in LEMS, gait assessment, and spasticity after the last session and neither during follow-up. Conclusion. In incomplete SCI, 15 daily sessions of high-frequency rTMS can improve motor score, walking speed, and spasticity in the lower limbs. The study provides evidence for the therapeutic potential of rTMS in the lower extremities in SCI rehabilitation. © The Author(s) 2013.
- functional improvement
- incomplete SCI
- transcranial magnetic stimulation