March 2, 2006

Breathing training can help heart failure patients

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People with heart failure and
difficulty breathing may benefit considerably from using a
device to train the muscles involved in breathing, Brazilian
researchers report.

The Threshold Inspiratory Muscle Trainer (Healthscan
Products, Inc.) applies a load while subjects breathe in, thus
training the muscles to become stronger.

Dr. Jorge P. Ribeiro of Hospital de Clinicas de Porto
Allegre and colleagues randomly assigned 32 patients to either
a 12-week home-based program using the device with an
inspiratory load maintained at 30 percent of maximal
inspiratory pressure, or to a placebo program in which the
participants had no inspiratory load.

Muscle training resulted in a 115 percent improvement in
maximal inspiratory pressure, and a 17 percent increase in peak
oxygen uptake.

Also in a test measuring how far the subjects were able to
walk in 6 minutes, the distance increased from an average of
449 meters to 550 meters, the investigators report in the
Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Active treatment patients also experienced an increase in
quality-of-life scores.

The researchers point out that although the training was
not continued beyond 12 weeks, part of the effect on maximal
inspiratory pressure and on quality of life was still
maintained after a year.

"Together with the observations from other small trials,"
Dr. Ribeiro told Reuters Health, "our data indicate that
inspiratory muscle training is a safe intervention that can be
considered for the management of patients with chronic heart
failure, particularly those with weakness in inspiratory

Given these findings, the team also concludes that it may
be worth screening heart failure patients for breathing muscle

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology,
February 21, 2006.