Advocacy Efforts to Keep E-stim Therapy Available for People with Spinal Cord Injuries

One of the leading causes of death for people with spinal cord injuries is a pressure sore. Pressure sores are the most common secondary medical complication associated with spinal cord injury and there is an extremely high chance of adults developing one at some point during their lifetime. Having a pressure sore can result in more time in hospital, delayed rehabilitation, and a longer road to independence.

A treatment that has been gaining positive recognition from researchers and clinicians is electrical stimulation therapy. Also known as E-stim, the therapy involves the muscles around the wound being stimulated through electrical impulses to promote healing. This therapy is used when conventional wound therapies are not working. Researchers have proven that Estim significantly increased the odds of wound closure by a rate of 50%-200% over the control groups in the studies.

Although E-stim is a successful treatment and many Spinal Cord Injury Ontario members have seen tremendous improvement with their own pressure sores, Health Quality Ontario made a recommendation to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to NOT continue providing funding for this kind of therapy.

On July 24, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario was invited by the Canadian pressure sore community to assist in advocating to reinstate support for E-stim therapy for people with spinal cord injury. With the backing of the academic community, clinicians and our own networks, our Public Policy Program led a response to Health Quality Ontario to reconsider their recommendation.

This organized appeal to Health Quality Ontario reversed their decision. Health Quality Ontario has agreed to a systematic review based on the needs of people with spinal cord injuries who have pressure sores. We are very thankful that Health Quality Ontario is willing to give this issue the attention it deserves and review the therapy results our community has had.

Over the next few weeks, we will work with Health Quality Ontario to make informed recommendations to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on the effectiveness of electrical stimulation therapy as it pertains to people with spinal cord injuries. Our hope is that they will recommend that E-stim therapy be fully funded by OHIP for people with spinal cord injuries. We will also continue to work with our clinical community to promote a higher uptake of this treatment as it is grossly underused in Canada.

Stay tuned!