Improving Respiratory Muscle Strength and Overall Function in Patients With Cardiovascular Disease Through Rehabilitation Hospitals

Tomohiro Matsuo, Tomoyuki Morisawa, Takuro Ohtsubo, Katsuhiro Ueno, Shuichi Kozawa


Background: The prevalence of respiratory sarcopenia and its effect on respiratory muscle strength (RMS) in patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD), who are transferred to a convalescent rehabilitation hospital after acute care and require continuous cardiac rehabilitation (CR), is currently unclear. This study aimed to assess changes in RMS, physical function, and activities of daily living (ADL) before and after CR performed in a rehabilitation hospital.

Methods: Of 50 consecutive patients transferred to a rehabilitation hospital for ongoing CR, 30 fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Maximal inspiratory and expiratory pressures (MIP and MEP, respectively) were measured at transfer, and patients with decreased RMS were diagnosed with respiratory sarcopenia. RMS, physical function, exercise tolerance, ADL ability, and health-related quality of life (HR-QoL) were measured and compared at transfer and discharge.

Results: The prevalence of respiratory sarcopenia at the time of transfer to the rehabilitation hospital was 93.3%. RMS assessments at transfer and discharge demonstrated significant improvements in %MIP (from 46.326.1% to 63.633.7%) and %MEP (from 44.817.3% to 56.621.8%). Short physical performance battery, gait speed, handgrip strength, and knee extension muscle strength significantly improved, along with significant prolongation of 6-min walking distance as a measure of exercise tolerance. ADL assessment using the functional independence measure revealed significant improvement, as did HR-QoL assessed according to the five-dimension, five-level, EuroQoL instrument, following CR.

Conclusions: Although respiratory sarcopenia was highly prevalent among patients with CVD who required transfer to a rehabilitation hospital after acute care, continuous CR significantly improved RMS, ADL, physical function, and exercise tolerance. These findings support the continued expansion of CR, particularly in dedicated rehabilitation hospitals.

Cardiol Res. 2024;15(1):56-66


Rehabilitation hospital; Cardiac rehabilitation; Respiratory muscle strength

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