Impact of mild-to-moderate exacerbations on outcomes of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) in patients with COPD

Roy Meys*, Maurice J. Sillen, Frits M. E. Franssen, Anouk A. F. Stoffels, Emiel F. M. Wouters, Hieronymus W. H. van Hees, Bram van den Borst, Peter H. Klijn, Martijn A. Spruit, BASES Consortium

*Corresponding author for this work

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Acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD) are common among patients attending pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) and may compromise its outcomes. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) seems one of the few exercise modalities that can actually be continued during AECOPD, due to its low burden on the impaired respiratory and cardiovascular system. However, the quality of evidence is low. The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of mild-to-moderate AECOPD on adherence/outcomes of a high-frequency (HF) or low-frequency (LF) NMES training program, as part of inpatient PR, in severely dyspneic, weakened individuals with COPD. 62 patients who received NMES as the sole supervised muscle training modality during an 8-week PR program (HF-NMES: n = 33; LF-NMES: n = 29) were analyzed retrospectively. 48.4% experienced >= 1 AECOPD during PR and were classified as exacerbators. Exacerbators completed 75 NMES sessions (interquartile range: 73-78) and were able to increase training intensity with 24 mA (15-39), while non-exacerbators completed 76 sessions (73-79) and increased training intensity with 35 mA (22-50), with no between-group differences (p = 0.474 and p = 0.065, respectively). The median change in 6-min walking distance, cycle endurance time, and isokinetic quadriceps strength and endurance did not differ between the exacerbation and non-exacerbation group. To conclude, the occurrence of mild-to-moderate AECOPD during a PR program primarily focused on NMES, does not affect adherence, intensity, and clinical outcomes in patients with severe COPD. Continuing NMES seems a feasible way to potentially counteract exacerbation-related lower-limb muscle dysfunction and improve outcomes of PR, with HF-NMES being the preferential muscle training modality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105851
Number of pages4
JournalRespiratory Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Neuromuscular electrical stimulation
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Exacerbation
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation
  • MEN

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