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A novel clinical rehabilitation method for patients who have permanent and non recoverable muscle denervation in the legs was developed in the frame of the European Project RISE. The technique is based on FES and the project results shows, in these severely disabled patients, restoration of muscle tissue and function. This study propose novel methods based on image processing technique and medical modelling to monitor growth in denervated muscle treated with FES. Geometrical and structural changes in muscle and bone are studied and modelled. Secondary effects on the bone mineral density produced by the stimulation treatment and due the elicited muscle contraction are also investigated. The restoration process in DDM is an important object of discussion since there isn’t yet a complete understanding of the mechanisms regulating growth in denervated muscle. This study approaches the problem from a macroscopic point of view, developing 3-dimensional models of the whole stimulated muscles and following changes in volume, geometry and density very accurately. The method is based on the acquisition of high resolution Spiral CT scans from patients who have long-term flaccid paraplegia and the use of special image processing tools allowing tissue discriminations and muscle segmentation. Three patients were measured at different points of time during 4 years of electrical stimulation treatment. In this study is quantitatively demonstrated the influences of FES treatment on the different quadriceps bellies. The rectus femoris muscle is positioned in the middle of the quadriceps and responds (in general) better to stimulation. In a patient with abundant adipose tissue surrounding the quadriceps, rectus femoris almost doubled the volume during the FES treatment while in the other bellies the changes measured were minimal. The analysis of the density shows clearly a restoration of the muscular structure in the growing muscle. The remarkable increase of muscle mass and the improved quality of the muscle tissue was observed and measured on whole muscle volume. The 3-dimensional approach proposed in this work allows the geometrical changes in denervated muscle to be measured. Central lines in rectus femoris are calculated during the treatment and the relative curvature indexes are used to quantify differences between data sets. The result shows a correlation between degeneration status and changes in shape; the differences in curvature between control and denervated muscle diminish with the growth. Furthermore, bone mineral density is measured on the femur to monitor the structural changes induced by the current flow and to evaluate the effect on the patella bone density due to the quadriceps contraction. Though the evidences aren’t yet statistically relevant a kind of structural change in the femur is measured as secondary effect from the muscle stimulation. Beside, the force applied on the patella through the elicited contraction seems also to have a beneficial effect on bone density. Indeed the mineral loss in the patella is remarkably slowed down.
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