Addition of blood flow restriction to passive mobilization reduces the rate of muscle wasting in elderly patients in the intensive care unit: a within-patient randomized trial

Clin Rehabil. 2019 Feb;33(2):233-240. doi: 10.1177/0269215518801440. Epub 2018 Sep 24.


Objective:: To evaluate the addition of blood flow restriction to passive mobilization in patients in the intensive care unit.

Design:: The study was a within-patient randomized trial.

Setting:: Two intensive care units in Belém, from September to October 2017.

Subjects:: In total, 34 coma patients admitted to the intensive care unit sector, and 20 patients fulfilled the study requirements.

Interventions:: All participants received the passive mobilization protocol for lower limbs, and blood flow restriction was added only for one side in a concurrent fashion. Intervention lasted the entire patient's hospitalization time.

Main outcome measurement:: Thigh muscle thickness and circumference.

Results:: In total, 34 subjects were enrolled in the study: 11 were excluded for exclusion criteria, 3 for death, and 20 completed the intervention (17 men and 3 women; mean age: 66 ± 4.3 years). Despite both groups presented atrophy, the atrophy rate was lower in blood flow restriction limb in relation to the control limb (-2.1 vs. -2.8 mm, respectively, in muscle thickness; P = 0.001). In addition, the blood flow restriction limb also had a smaller reduction in the thigh circumference than the control limb (-2.5 vs. -3.6 cm, respectively; P = 0.001).

Conclusion:: The use of blood flow restriction did not present adverse effects and seems to be a valid strategy to reduce the magnitude of the rate of muscle wasting that occurs in intensive care unit patients.

Keywords: Muscle atrophy; blood flow restriction; intensive care unit; passive manipulation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Critical Care
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Lower Extremity / blood supply*
  • Lower Extremity / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Therapy, Continuous Passive / methods*
  • Sarcopenia / prevention & control*