Children with Burn Injury Have Impaired Cardiac Output during Submaximal Exercise

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Burn trauma damages resting cardiac function; however, it is currently unknown if the cardiovascular response to exercise is likewise impaired. We tested the hypothesis that, in children, burn injury lowers cardiac output (Q˙) and stroke volume (SV) during submaximal exercise.


Five children with 49% ± 4% total body surface area (BSA) burned (two female, 11.7 ± 1 yr, 40.4 ± 18 kg, 141.1 ± 9 cm) and eight similar nonburned controls (five female, 12.5 ± 2 yr, 58.0 ± 17 kg, 147.3 ± 12 cm) with comparable exercise capacity (peak oxygen consumption [peak V˙O2]: 31.9 ± 11 vs 36.8 ± 8 mL O2·kg−1·min−1, P = 0.39) participated. The exercise protocol entailed a preexercise (pre-EX) rest period followed by 3-min exercise stages at 20 W and 50 W. V˙O2, HR, Q˙ (via nonrebreathing), SV (Q˙/HR), and arteriovenous O2 difference ([a-v]O2diff, Q˙/ V˙O2) were the primary outcome variables.


Using a 2-way factorial ANOVA (group [G] × exercise [EX]), we found that Q˙ was approximately 27% lower in the burned than the nonburned group at 20 W of exercise (burned 5.7 ± 1.0 vs nonburned: 7.9 ± 1.8 L·min−1) and 50 W of exercise (burned 6.9 ± 1.6 vs nonburned 9.2 ± 3.2 L·min−1) (G–EX interaction, P = 0.012). SV did not change from rest to exercise in burned children but increased by approximately 24% in the nonburned group (main effect for EX, P = 0.046). Neither [a-v] O2diff nor V˙O2 differed between groups at rest or exercise, but HR response to exercise was reduced in the burn group (G–EX interaction, P = 0.004). When normalized to BSA, SV (index) was similar between groups; however, Q˙ (index) remained attenuated in the burned group (G–EX interaction, P < 0.008).


Burned children have an attenuated cardiovascular response to submaximal exercise. Further investigation of hemodynamic function during exercise will provide insights important for cardiovascular rehabilitation in burned children.

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