Exercise capacity deteriorates in school-aged children born with major anatomical foregut anomalies and/or treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether exercise capacity can be improved in the short term and long term in children born with anatomical foregut anomalies and/or treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Therefore, we evaluated two different interventions in this single-blinded randomized controlled trial. Forty participants were randomly assigned to group A: standardized anaerobic high-intensity interval training plus online lifestyle coaching program, B: online lifestyle coaching program only, or C: standard of care. Inclusion criteria were as follows: score ≤-1 standard deviation (SD) on the Bruce protocol. Exercise capacity was assessed at baseline (T0), after 3 months (T1), and after 12 months (T2). Exercise capacity improved over time: mean (SD) standard deviation score (SDS) endurance time: T0 -1.91 (0.73); T1 -1.35 (0.94); T2 -1.20 (1.03): both P < .001. No significant differences in maximal endurance time were found at T1 (group A-C: estimated mean difference (SDS): 0.06 P = .802; group B-C: -0.17 P = .733) or T2 (group A-C: -0.13 P = .635; group B-C: -0.18 P = .587). Exercise capacity improved significantly over time, irrespective of the study arm. Not only residual morbidities may be responsible for reduced exercise capacity. Parental awareness of reduced exercise capacity rather than specific interventions may have contributed. Monitoring of exercise tolerance and providing counseling on lifestyle factors that improve physical activity should be part of routine care, and aftercare should be offered on an individual basis.
Keywords: clinical trial; exercise capacity; family factors; major anatomical foregut anomalies; neonatal extracorporeal membrane oxygenation; online coaching; physical activity; training program.
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