Introduction: Recent studies demonstrate that cardiovascular diseases and associated complications are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI). Abnormal arterial stiffness, defined by a carotid-to-femoral pulse wave velocity (cfPWV) ≥10 m/s, is a recognised risk factor for heart disease in individuals with SCI. There is a paucity of studies assessing the efficacy of conventional training modalities on arterial stiffness and other cardiovascular outcomes in this population. Therefore, this study aims to compare the efficacy of arm cycle ergometry training (ACET) and body weight-supported treadmill training (BWSTT) on reducing arterial stiffness in individuals with chronic motor complete, high-level (above the sixth thoracic segment) SCI.
Methods and analysis: This is a multicentre, randomised, controlled, clinical trial. Eligible participants will be randomly assigned (1:1) into either ACET or BWSTT groups. Sixty participants with chronic (>1 year) SCI will be recruited from three sites in Canada (Vancouver, Toronto and Hamilton). Participants in each group will exercise three times per week up to 30 min and 60 min for ACET and BWSTT, respectively, over the period of 6 months. The primary outcome measure will be change in arterial stiffness (cfPWV) from baseline. Secondary outcome measures will include comprehensive assessments of: (1) cardiovascular parameters, (2) autonomic function, (3) body composition, (4) blood haematological and metabolic profiles, (5) cardiorespiratory fitness and (6) quality of life (QOL) and physical activity outcomes. Outcome measures will be assessed at baseline, 3 months, 6 months and 12 months (only QOL and physical activity outcomes). Statistical analyses will apply linear-mixed modelling to determine the training (time), group (ACET vs BWSTT) and interaction (time × group) effects on all outcomes.
Ethics and dissemination: Ethical approval was obtained from all three participating sites. Primary and secondary outcome data will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals and widely disseminated.
Trial registration number: NCT01718977; Pre-results.
Trial status: Recruitment for this study began on January 2013 and the first participant was randomized on April 2013. Recruitment stopped on October 2018.
Keywords: arm-cycle ergometry training; body weight-supported treadmill training; cardiovascular health; pulse wave velocity; spinal cord injury.
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