Exercise testing in survivors of intensive care--is there a role for cardiopulmonary exercise testing?

S Benington, D McWilliams, J Eddleston, D Atkinson

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20 Citations (Scopus)


The aims of this study were to assess the feasibility of cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) for the early assessment of cardiorespiratory fitness in general adult intensive care unit (ICU) survivors and to characterize the pathophysiology of exercise limitation in this population.

Fifty general ICU survivors (ventilated for ≥5 days) performed a maximal cycle ergometer CPET within 6 weeks of hospital discharge. Health-related quality of life was measured by the Medical Outcome Study Short Form 36 version 2.0 questionnaire.

Fifty patients (median age, 57 years; median Acute Physiology And Chronic Health Evaluation II score, 16) completed a CPET 24 ± 14 days after hospital discharge with no adverse events. Significant exercise limitation was present with peak Vo2 56% ± 16% predicted and anaerobic threshold (AT) 41% ± 13% of peak predicted Vo2. Prospectively stratified subgroup comparison showed that patients ventilated for 14 days or more had a significantly lower AT and peak Vo2 than those ventilated for 5 to 14 days (AT: 9.6 vs 11.7 mL/kg per minute O2, P = .009; peak Vo2: 12.9 vs 15.3 mL/kg per minute O2, P = .022). At peak exercise, heart rate reserve was 25% ± 14%, breathing reserve was 47% ± 19%, and the respiratory exchange ratio was 0.96 ± 0.11. Ventilatory equivalents for CO2 (Eqco2) were 39 ± 9.

Significant exercise limitation is evident in patients who have had critical illness. Etiology of exercise limitation appears multifactorial, with general deconditioning and muscle weakness as major contributory factors. Early CPET appears a practical method of assessing exercise capacity in ICU survivors. Cardiopulmonary exercise testing could be used to select patients who may benefit most from a targeted physical rehabilitation program, aid in exercise prescription, and help assess the response to intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-94
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Critical Care
Issue number1
Early online date28 Sept 2011
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiopulmonary exercise test
  • Critical care
  • Rehabilitation
  • Health related quality of life


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