Effect of functional electrical stimulation on cardiovascular outcomes in patients with chronic heart failure
Functional electrical stimulation of lower limb muscles is an alternative method of training in patients with chronic heart failure (CHF). Although it improves exercise capacity in CHF, we performed a randomised, placebo-controlled study to investigate its effects on long-term clinical outcomes.Methods
We randomly assigned 120 patients, aged 71 ± 8 years, with stable CHF (New York Heart Association (NYHA) class II/III (63%/37%), mean left ventricular ejection fraction 28 ± 5%), to either a 6-week functional electrical stimulation training programme or placebo. Patients were followed for up to 19 months for death and/or hospitalisation due to CHF decompensation.Results
At baseline, there were no significant differences in demographic parameters, CHF severity and medications between groups. During a median follow-up of 383 days, 14 patients died (11 cardiac, three non-cardiac deaths), while 40 patients were hospitalised for CHF decompensation. Mortality did not differ between groups (log rank test P = 0.680), while the heart failure-related hospitalisation rate was significantly lower in the functional electrical stimulation group (hazard ratio (HR) 0.40, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.21–0.78, P = 0.007). The latter difference remained significant after adjustment for prognostic factors: age, gender, baseline NYHA class and left ventricular ejection fraction (HR 0.22, 95% CI 0.10–0.46, P < 0.001). Compared to placebo, functional electrical stimulation training was associated with a lower occurrence of the composite endpoint (death or heart failure-related hospitalisation) after adjustment for the above-mentioned prognostic factors (HR 0.21, 95% CI 0.103–0.435, P < 0.001). However, that effect was mostly driven by the favourable change in hospitalisation rates.Conclusions
In CHF patients, 6 weeks functional electrical stimulation training reduced the risk of heart failure-related hospitalisations, without affecting the mortality rate. The beneficial long-term effects of this alternative method of training require further investigation.