Importance: Early in-bed cycling and electrical muscle stimulation may improve the benefits of rehabilitation in patients in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Objective: To investigate whether early in-bed leg cycling plus electrical stimulation of the quadriceps muscles added to standardized early rehabilitation would result in greater muscle strength at discharge from the ICU.
Design, setting, and participants: Single-center, randomized clinical trial enrolling critically ill adult patients at 1 ICU within an 1100-bed hospital in France. Enrollment lasted from July 2014 to June 2016 and there was a 6-month follow-up, which ended on November 24, 2016.
Interventions: Patients were randomized to early in-bed leg cycling plus electrical stimulation of the quadriceps muscles added to standardized early rehabilitation (n = 159) or standardized early rehabilitation alone (usual care) (n = 155).
Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was muscle strength at discharge from the ICU assessed by physiotherapists blinded to treatment group using the Medical Research Council grading system (score range, 0-60 points; a higher score reflects better muscle strength; minimal clinically important difference of 4 points). Secondary outcomes at ICU discharge included the number of ventilator-free days and ICU Mobility Scale score (range, 0-10; a higher score reflects better walking capability). Functional autonomy and health-related quality of life were assessed at 6 months.
Results: Among 314 randomized patients, 312 (mean age, 66 years; women, 36%; receiving mechanical ventilation at study inclusion, 78%) completed the study and were included in the analysis. The median global Medical Research Council score at ICU discharge was 48 (interquartile range [IQR], 29 to 58) in the intervention group and 51 (IQR, 37 to 58) in the usual care group (median difference, -3.0 [95% CI, -7.0 to 2.8]; P = .28). The ICU Mobility Scale score at ICU discharge was 6 (IQR, 3 to 9) in both groups (median difference, 0 [95% CI, -1 to 2]; P = .52). The median number of ventilator-free days at day 28 was 21 (IQR, 6 to 25) in the intervention group and 22 (IQR, 10 to 25) in the usual care group (median difference, 1 [95% CI, -2 to 3]; P = .24). Clinically significant events occurred during mobilization sessions in 7 patients (4.4%) in the intervention group and in 9 patients (5.8%) in the usual care group. There were no significant between-group differences in the outcomes assessed at 6 months.
Conclusions and relevance: In this single-center randomized clinical trial involving patients admitted to the ICU, adding early in-bed leg cycling exercises and electrical stimulation of the quadriceps muscles to a standardized early rehabilitation program did not improve global muscle strength at discharge from the ICU.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02185989.