Background: There have been many suggestions that diminished exercise capacity in patients that have undergone lung transplantation is due, in part, to peripheral muscle dysfunction, brought on by either detraining or immunosuppressive therapy. There is limited data quantifying skeletal muscle function in this population, especially in those more than 18 months post-procedure. The present study sought to quantitate skeletal muscle function and cardiopulmonary responses to graded exercise in 19 lung transplant recipients, 15 of which were mostly more than 18 months post-procedure.
Methods: Ten single- (SLT) and 9 double-lung transplantation (DLT) underwent anthropometric measures and performed expiratory spirometry, whole body plethysmography to assess lung volumes, static maximal mouth pressures to assess respiratory muscle strength, progressive exercise testing on a cycle ergometer (with cardiac output measurements being performed every second workload) and isokinetic cycling to assess peripheral muscle power and work capacity.
Results: The DLT group was younger than the SLT group (23.0 [21.0-32.0] vs 47.5 [43.0-55.0] median [interquartile range], p < .05) with no differences in height, weight, or BMI. Despite the DLT group having significantly better spirometric values (FEV1: 86% vs 56.5% median) and less airtrapping (RV/TLC: 30% vs 53.5%), both groups were equally limited in exercise capacity (Wmax)(38.0 percent predicted [30.0-65.0] vs 37.5 percent predicted [30.0-44.0], SLT vs DLT), leg power (76.1 percent predicted [53.8-81.4] vs 69.0 percent predicted [58.3-76.0]) and leg work capacity (63.3 percent predicted [34.7-66.8] vs 38.4 percent predicted [27.5-57.3]). This lack of difference in performance persisted when the analysis was limited to those more than 18 months post-procedure. Respiratory muscle strength was also not different for the two groups, and was within normal limits. Wmax was best correlated with leg work capacity (r = .84), but also with leg power, RV/TLC, FEV1 (r = .49, -.52, .58). When normalized for age, height, and sex, percent predicted Wmax only correlated with percent predicted leg work capacity (r = .58). Cardiac output was appropriate for the work performed.
Conclusions: We conclude that peripheral skeletal muscle work capacity is reduced following lung transplantation and mostly responsible for the limitation of exercise performance. While the causes of muscular dysfunction have yet to be clarified, the preservation of respiratory muscle strength with the concomitant reduction in leg power and work capacity suggests that most of the muscular dysfunction post-transplantation is attributable to detraining.