Cardiopulmonary exercise testing early after stroke using feedback-controlled robotics-assisted treadmill exercise: test-retest reliability and repeatability

O. Stoller*, E.D. de Bruin, M. Schindelholz, C. Schuster-Amft, R.A. de Bie, K.J. Hunt

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Exercise capacity is seriously reduced after stroke. While cardiopulmonary assessment and intervention strategies have been validated for the mildly and moderately impaired populations post-stroke, there is a lack of effective concepts for stroke survivors suffering from severe motor limitations. This study investigated the test-retest reliability and repeatability of cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) using feedback-controlled robotics-assisted treadmill exercise (FC-RATE) in severely motor impaired individuals early after stroke. Methods: 20 subjects (age 44-84 years, <6 month post-stroke) with severe motor limitations (Functional Ambulatory Classification 0-2) were selected for consecutive constant load testing (CLT) and incremental exercise testing (IET) within a powered exoskeleton, synchronised with a treadmill and a body weight support system. A manual human-in-the-loop feedback system was used to guide individual work rate levels. Outcome variables focussed on standard cardiopulmonary performance parameters. Relative and absolute test-retest reliability were assessed by intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC), standard error of the measurement (SEM), and minimal detectable change (MDC). Mean difference, limits of agreement, and coefficient of variation (CoV) were estimated to assess repeatability. Results: Peak performance parameters during IET yielded good to excellent relative reliability: absolute peak oxygen uptake (ICC =0.82), relative peak oxygen uptake (ICC =0.72), peak work rate (ICC =0.91), peak heart rate (ICC =0.80), absolute gas exchange threshold (ICC =0.91), relative gas exchange threshold (ICC =0.88), oxygen cost of work (ICC =0.87), oxygen pulse at peak oxygen uptake (ICC =0.92), ventilation rate versus carbon dioxide output slope (ICC =0.78). For these variables, SEM was 4-13%, MDC 12-36%, and CoV 0.10-0.36. CLT revealed high mean differences and insufficient test-retest reliability for all variables studied. Conclusions: This study presents first evidence on reliability and repeatability for CPET in severely motor impaired individuals early after stroke using a feedback-controlled robotics-assisted treadmill. The results demonstrate good to excellent test-retest reliability and appropriate repeatability for the most important peak cardiopulmonary performance parameters. These findings have important implications for the design and implementation of cardiovascular exercise interventions in severely impaired populations. Future research needs to develop advanced control strategies to enable the true limit of functional exercise capacity to be reached and to further assess test-retest reliability and repeatability in larger samples.
Original languageEnglish
Article number145
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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