Water activities play an important role in the rehabilitation of spinal cord injury patients. Immersion in water reduces the vital capacity of normal individuals. Our objective was to compare the effect of immersion on pulmonary function of tetraplegic patients to normal individuals under controlled conditions.
23 otherwise well tetraplegic subjects were compared to a control group of 11 similar healthy subjects before and during 15 minutes of isothermal immersion in water to shoulders level.
Immersion increased the forced vital capacity of tetraplegic patients an average of 18.4%+/-18.7 above basal measurements whereas that of the control group worsened %= -8.8%+/-4.4). Among the tetraplegic patients the lower the pre immersion χ( vital capacity the greater the percentage of improvement following immersion (r= -0,79, CI95% -0,91 to -0,56; P<0,0001). No relationship was found between time since, or level of, cervical cord injury and the degree of improvement.
Under strictly controlled experimental conditions the pulmonary function of a group of tetraplegic patients was seen to improve during isothermic shoulder level immersion compared to a control group.
Aquatic activities pose no apparent functional risk to tetraplegics and may improve pulmonary rehabilitation.
T.A. Horan, None.