Several researchers have tried to address this dilemma by intervening with neuromuscular electrical stimulation. This involves applying a mild electrical current to the skin surface overlying muscles to cause those muscles to contract involuntarily.
Neuromuscular electrical stimulation improves strength and function in long-stay hospitalised elderly individuals. A group of researchers in Spain have recently combined all the available high-quality evidence about the effects of neuromuscular electrical stimulation in haemodialysis patients.
They found eight randomised controlled trials and pooled the data to generate overall estimates of the effects of the intervention. On average, the electrical stimulation improved the distance people could walk in 6 minutes by 31 metres. Strength also improved, by an average of 3.5 kg in the quadriceps and 2.4 kg in handgrip. Electrical stimulation was also estimated to be beneficial for several aspects of quality of life, although the available data did not indicate very precisely how big those benefits were.