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Relationship Between Pulmonary Function and Exercise Capacity in Individuals with Spinal Cord Injury

Battikha, Maya MD; Sà, Luis MD; Porter, Aidan BS; Taylor, J. Andrew PhD

American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: May 2014 - Volume 93 - Issue 5 - p 413–421
doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000000046
Original Research Articles

Objective The aim of this study was to determine whether the relationship between impaired pulmonary function and level of spinal cord injury would relate to lower maximal ventilation during exercise (Vemax) and hence reduced aerobic capacity.

Design Pulmonary function and maximal aerobic capacity (V˙O2max) were assessed as measured by maximal oxygen uptake in 20 men with complete spinal cord injury (C5–T11). Static and dynamic lung volumes (forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume in 1 sec, and maximum voluntary ventilation) were measured by spirometry. V˙O2max and Vemax were measured during a graded maximal exercise test on an arm crank ergometer.

Results Level of injury was inversely correlated with measures of pulmonary function, Vemax and V˙O2max. On the basis of the correlations, the authors constructed a path analysis to test whether level of injury indirectly (via pulmonary function and/or Vemax) or directly reduced V˙O2max. Akaike information criteria indicated that the strongest effect of level of injury on V˙O2max was via reduced Vemax.

Conclusions Respiratory capacity does influence exercise capacity in the population with spinal cord injury and may play an important role in delimiting aerobic exercise capacity.

From the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the Cardiovascular Research Laboratory and the Exercise for Persons with Disabilities (ExPD) Program, Spaulding Hospital Cambridge, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

All correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to: J. Andrew Taylor, PhD, Cardiovascular Research Laboratory, Spaulding Hospital Cambridge, 1575 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Financial disclosure statements have been obtained, and no conflicts of interest have been reported by the authors or by any individuals in control of the content of this article.

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins