BACKGROUND: In patients who are ventilator-dependent in the intensive care unit, inspiratory muscle training may improve inspiratory muscle strength and accelerate liberation from the ventilator, but optimal training parameters are yet to be established, and little is known about the impact of inspiratory muscle training on quality of life or dyspnoea. Thus, we sought to ascertain whether inspiratory muscle training, commenced while ventilator-dependent, would improve outcomes for patients invasively ventilated for 7 days or longer.
METHODS: In this randomised trial with assessor blinding and intention-to-treat analysis, 70 participants (mechanically ventilated ≥7 days) were randomised to receive once-daily supervised high-intensity inspiratory muscle training with a mechanical threshold device in addition to usual care or to receive usual care (control). Primary outcomes were inspiratory muscle strength (maximum inspiratory pressure % predicted) and endurance (fatigue resistance index) at ventilator liberation and 1 week later. Secondary outcomes included quality of life (SF-36v2, EQ-5D), dyspnoea, physical function, duration of ventilation, and in-hospital mortality.
RESULTS: Thirty-three participants were randomly allocated to the training group, and 37 to the control group. There were no statistically significant differences in strength (maximum inspiratory pressure) (95% confidence interval [CI]: -7.4 to 14.0) or endurance (fatigue resistance index) (95% CI: -0.003 to 0.436). Quality of life improved significantly more in the training group than in the control group (EQ-5D: 17.2; 95% CI: 1.3-33.0) (SF-36-PCS: 6.97; 95% CI: 1.96-12.00). Only the training group demonstrated significant reductions in dyspnoea (-1.5 at rest, -1.9 during exercise). There were no between-group differences in duration of ventilation or other measures. In-hospital mortality was higher in the control group than in the training group (9 vs 4, 24% vs 12%, p = 0.23).
CONCLUSIONS: In patients who are ventilator-dependent, mechanical threshold loading inspiratory muscle training improves quality of life and dyspnoea, even in the absence of strength improvements or acceleration of ventilator liberation.