The Feasibility of Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing for Prescribing Exercise to People After Stroke

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Background and Purpose—Despite the importance of exercise training in mitigating cardiovascular risk, the development of exercise programs for people poststroke has been limited by lack of feasibility data concerning cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) to inform the exercise prescription. Therefore, we examined the feasibility of CPETs for developing an exercise prescription in people ≥3 months poststroke.Methods—CPET results from 98 consecutively enrolled patients poststroke with motor impairments and 98 age- and sex-matched patients with coronary artery disease were examined at baseline and after 6 months of exercise training.Results—The proportion of patients with stroke and coronary artery disease attaining an intensity sufficient for prescribing exercise at baseline was 68.4% versus 82.7%, respectively (P=0.02) and 84.7% versus 83.8% (P=0.9) at 6 months. Women were less likely than men poststroke to achieve a sufficient intensity at baseline (40% versus 80.9%, P<0.001) but not at 6 months (78.3% versus 87.1, P=0.3). A clinically relevant abnormality occurred in 11.2% of stroke and 12.2% of patients with coronary artery disease on baseline CPETs (P=0.8) and 10.6% of stroke and 5.9% of patients with coronary artery disease on the 6-month CPET (P=0.4). No serious cardiovascular events occurred during 349 CPETs.Conclusions—Most patients after stroke achieved a level of exertion during the CPET sufficient to inform an exercise prescription. At least 1 of 10 patients poststroke developed a clinically relevant abnormality on baseline and postprogram CPETs with no serious cardiovascular events. These data support the feasibility and safety of CPETs for prescribing exercise poststroke. Strategies to improve use of baseline CPETs for women poststroke require further investigation.

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