Purpose: Increased dyspnea and reduced exercise capacity in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) can be partly attributed to impaired respiratory muscle function. This prospective study was designed to assess the impact of exercise and respiratory training on respiratory muscle strength and 6-min walking distance (6MWD) in PAH patients.
Methods: Patients with invasively confirmed PAH underwent 3 weeks of in-hospital exercise and respiratory training, which was continued at home for another 12 weeks. Medication remained constant during the study period. Blinded observers assessed efficacy parameters at baseline (I) and after 3 (II) and 15 weeks (III). Respiratory muscle function was assessed by twitch mouth pressure (TwPmo) during nonvolitional supramaximal magnetic phrenic nerve stimulation.
Results: Seven PAH patients (4 women; mean pulmonary artery pressure 45 ± 11 mmHg, median WHO functional class 3.1 ± 0.4, idiopathic/associated PAH n = 5/2) were included. The training program was feasible and well tolerated by all patients with excellent compliance. TwPmo was I: 0.86 ± 0.37 kPa, II: 1.04 ± 0.29 kPa, and III: 1.27 ± 0.44 kPa, respectively. 6MWD was I: 417 ± 51 m, II: 509 ± 39 m, and III: 498 ± 39 m, respectively. Both TwPmo (+0.41 ± 0.34 kPa, +56 ± 39 %) and 6MWD (+81 ± 30 m, +20 ± 9 %) increased significantly in the period between baseline and the final assessment (pairwise comparison: p = 0.012/<0.001; RM-ANOVA considering I, II, III: p = 0.037/<0.001).
Conclusions: Exercise and respiratory training as an adjunct to medical therapy may be effective in patients with PAH to improve respiratory muscle strength and exercise capacity. Future, randomized, controlled trials should be carried out to further investigate these findings.