Background: Cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV) is a progressive form of atherosclerosis occurring in heart transplant (HTx) recipients, leading to increased morbidity and mortality. Given the atheroprotective effect of exercise on traditional atherosclerosis, we hypothesized that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) would reduce the progression of CAV among HTx recipients.
Methods: Forty-three cardiac allograft recipients (mean ± SD age 51 ± 16 years; 67% men; time post-HTx 4.0 ± 2.2 years), all clinically stable and >18 years old, were randomized to either a HIIT group or control group (standard care) for 1 year. The effect of training on CAV progression was assessed by intravascular ultrasound (IVUS).
Results: IVUS analysis revealed a significantly smaller mean increase [95% CI] in atheroma volume (PAV) of 0.9% [95% CI -;0.3% to 1.9%] in the HIIT group as compared with the control group, 2.5% [1.6% to 3.5%] (p = 0.021). Similarly, the mean increase in total atheroma volume (TAV) was 0.3 [0.0 to 0.6] mm(3)/mm in the HIT group vs 1.1 [0.6 to 1.7] mm(3)/mm in the control group (p = 0.020), and mean increase in maximal intimal thickness (MIT) was 0.02-0.01 to 0.04] mm in the HIIT group vs 0.05 [0.03 to 0.08] mm in the control group (p = 0.054). Qualitative plaque progression (virtual histology parameters) and inflammatory activity (biomarkers) were similar between the 2 groups during the study period.
Conclusions: HIIT among maintenance HTx recipients resulted in a significantly impaired rate of CAV progression. Future larger studies should address whether exercise rehabilitation strategies should be included in CAV management protocols.
Keywords: cardiac allograft vasculopathy; exercise; exercise capacity; heart transplant; high-intesity training; intravascular ultrasound; maximum oxygen uptake; rehabilitation.
© 2013 International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation. All rights reserved.