Purpose: The aim of this preliminary study was to evaluate the effects of low-frequency electrical stimulation of quadriceps and calf muscles on global exercise capacities, skeletal muscle metabolism, calf muscle volume, and cardiac output in patients with chronic heart failure.
Methods: Fourteen patients with chronic heart failure (mean age of 56.4 years +/- 9.1 SD; mean radionuclide left ventricular ejection fraction of 22.3% +/- 8.8 SD) underwent 5 weeks (1 hour per day, 5 days per week) of low-frequency electrical stimulation of quadriceps and calf muscles.
Results: Low-frequency electrical stimulation was well tolerated. Exercise capacity and the calf muscles volumes increased significantly after rehabilitation in comparison with prior rehabilitation (the peak oxygen consumption increased from 17.2 mL/(kgmin) +/- 5.3 SD to 19.6 mL/(kgmin) +/- 5.9 SD; the anaerobic threshold increased from 12.3 mL/(kgmin) +/- 3.2 SD to 15.2 mL/(kgmin) +/- 3.3 SD; the 6-minute walking test increased from 419 m +/- 122 SD to 459 m +/- 114.3 SD; the gastrocnemius volume increased from 259.4 cm3 +/- 58 SD to 273.4 cm3 +/- 74 SD, and the soleus volume increased from 319 cm3 +/- 42.9 SD to 338 cm3 +/- 52.5 SD). The New York Heart Association class was improved after rehabilitation. The P-31 nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy of gastrocnemius muscle data were not significantly modified after rehabilitation, thereby inferring that no significant improvement of the muscle metabolism occurred. These data reinforce the hypothesis of an increased muscle mass during stimulation. It is noteworthy that the electrical stimulation did not increase cardiac output at any stage; an enormous asset in favor of this mode of rehabilitation.
Conclusion: These results suggest that low-frequency muscular electrical stimulation is well tolerated, induces an increased exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure, without an undesirable increase in cardiac output.