Objective: Intensive care unit admission is associated with muscle wasting and impaired physical function. We investigated the effect of early transcutaneous electrical muscle stimulation on quadriceps muscle volume in patients with septic shock.
Design: Randomized interventional study using a single-legged exercise design with the contralateral leg serving as a paired control.
Setting: A mixed 18-bed intensive care unit at a tertiary care university hospital.
Patients: Eight adult male intensive care unit patients with septic shock included within 72 hrs of diagnosis.
Interventions: After randomization of the quadriceps muscles, transcutaneous electrical muscle stimulation was applied on the intervention side for 7 consecutive days and for 60 mins per day. All patients underwent computed tomographic scans of both thighs immediately before and after the 7-day treatment period. The quadriceps muscle was manually delineated on the computed tomography slices, and muscle volumes were calculated after three-dimensional reconstruction.
Measurements and Main Results: Median age and Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score were 67 years (interquartile range, 64–72 years) and 25 (interquartile range, 20–29), respectively. During the 7-day study period, the volume of the quadriceps muscle on the control thigh decreased by 16% (4–21%, p = .03) corresponding to a rate of 2.3% per day. The volume of the stimulated muscle decreased by 20% (3–25%, p = .04) corresponding to a rate of 2.9% per day (p = .12 for the difference in decrease). There was no difference in muscle volume between the stimulated and nonstimulated thigh at baseline (p = .10) or at day 7 (p = .12). The charge delivered to the muscle tissue per training session (0.82 [0.66–1.18] coulomb) correlated with the maximum sequential organ failure assessment score.
Conclusions: We observed a marked decrease in quadriceps volume within the first week of intensive care for septic shock. This loss of muscle mass was unaffected by transcutaneous electrical muscle stimulation applied for 60 mins per day for 7 days.