A small study with critically ill, respirator-dependent patients showed on Wednesday that early in-bed cycling may help the patients recover more quickly during their stay in the hospital intensive care unit (ICU).
“People may think that ICU patients are too sick for physical activity, but we know that if patients start in-bed cycling two weeks into their ICU stay, they will walk farther at hospital discharge,” lead author Michelle Kho, assistant professor with the School of Rehabilitation Science at Canada’s McMaster University and physiotherapist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said in a statement.
“Our TryCYCLE study builds on this previous work and finds it is safe and feasible to systematically start in-bed cycling within the first four days of mechanical ventilation and continue throughout a patient’s ICU stay.”
For over a year, Kho and her team conducted a study of 33 ICU patients at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, who were 18 years of age or older, receiving mechanical ventilation, and walking independently prior to admission to the ICU.
The treatment in the ICU was 30 minutes of supine cycling using a motorized stationary bicycle affixed to the bed, six days a week.
The researchers found that early cycling within the first four days of mechanical ventilation among patients with stable blood flow is safe and feasible.
Those who started the exercise within the first three days of ICU admission cycled about nine kilometers on average during their ICU stay, they said.
The study said these achievements even surprised the researchers. “Patients’ abilities to cycle during critical illness exceeded our expectations,” said Kho, adding that more research is needed to determine if this early cycling with critically ill patients improves their physical function.
Kho said they will have several hospital ICUs start the in-bed cycling study for a pilot randomized trial in the future.
The research was published in the U.S. journal PLOS ONE.