Study objectives: To evaluate the effects of early exercise training in patients recovering from acute respiratory failure needing mechanical ventilation (MV).
Design: Prospective, randomized, and controlled study.
Setting: Three respiratory intermediate ICUs (RIICUs).
Patients: Of 228 patients admitted to an RIICU, 66 patients weaned from MV from > 48 to < 96 h were considered eligible and enrolled in the study.
Intervention: Sixty-six patients were randomized to either supported arm exercise training plus general physiotherapy (gPT) [group 1, 32 patients] or to gPT alone (group 2, 34 patients).
Measurements and results: Twenty-five patients in each group completed the protocol. Group 1 showed a greater improvement in exercise capacity, as assessed by an arm incremental test (IT) [p = 0.003] and an endurance test (ET) [p = 0.021], compared to group 2. Posttraining maximal inspiratory pressure (MIP) significantly improved in both groups (p < 0.001 and p = 0.003 in groups 1 and 2 respectively; not significant). IT isoworkload dyspnea improved significantly in both groups (p = 0.005 and p = 0.009 in groups 1 and 2, respectively; not significant between groups), whereas IT isoworkload peripheral muscle fatigue (p < 0.001), ET isotime dyspnea (p < 0.01), and ET isotime muscular fatigue (p < 0.005) improved significantly in group 1 but not in group 2. IT improvers (χ2 = 0.004) and ET improvers (χ2 = 0.047) were more frequently observed in group 1 than in group 2. Baseline MIP could discriminate for IT (p = 0.013; odds ratio [OR], 1.116) and ET improvers (p = 0.022; OR, 1.067).
Conclusion: Early upper-limb exercise training is feasible in RIICU patients recently weaned from MV and can enhance the effects of gPT. Baseline inspiratory muscle function is related to exercise capacity improvement.