Cardiovascular responses in paraplegic subjects during arm exercise

Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1992;65(1):73-8. doi: 10.1007/BF01466277.


The purpose of this study was to examine cardiovascular responses during arm exercise in paraplegics compared to a well-matched control group. A group of 11 male paraplegics (P) with complete spinal cord-lesions between T6 and T12 and 11 male control subjects (C), matched for physical activity, sport participation and age performed maximal arm-cranking exercise and submaximal exercise at 20%, 40% and 60% of the maximal load for each individual. Cardiac output (Qc) was determined by the CO2 rebreathing method. Maximal oxygen uptake was significantly lower and maximal heart rate (fc) was significantly higher in P compared to C. At the same oxygen uptakes no significant differences were observed in Qc between P and C; however, stroke volume (SV) was significantly lower and fc significantly higher in P than in C. The lower SV in P could be explained by an impaired redistribution of blood and, therefore, a reduced ventricular filling pressure, due to pooling of venous blood caused by inactivity of the skeletal muscle pump in the legs and lack of sympathetic vasoconstriction below the lesion. In conclusion, in P maximal performance appears to have been limited by a smaller active muscle mass and a lower SV despite the higher fc,max. During submaximal exercise, however, this lower SV was compensated for by a higher fc and, thus at the same submaximal oxygen uptake, Qc was similar to that in the control group.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm
  • Cardiac Output
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Exercise Test
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscles / physiopathology
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Paraplegia / physiopathology*
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Stroke Volume