Prof. Michelle Kho monitors a patient on a ventilator as she cycles while lying in bed.

Prof. Michelle Kho monitors a patient on a ventilator as she cycles while lying in bed.
Photo Credit: Marta Hewson/Photography

Critically-ill patients cycle to save muscle strength

A Canadian study has determined that it is safe to have patients in intensive care hospital units cycle while lying in their beds. Further study will determine whether that will improve their prospects for a good recovery.

‘Bed rest is bad’

“We’ve often thought that bed rest is good and what science is showing now is that bed rest is bad,” says Michelle Kho, an assistant professor at McMaster University who conducted this research. “And, particularly for people in the ICU, we know that people’s muscles can start to shrink within the first three days of being in the ICU.”

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Prof. Michelle Kho says she and hospital staff were delighted to find ICU patients could cycle from their beds within three days of being admitted.

Prof. Michelle Kho says she and hospital staff were delighted to find ICU patients could cycle from their beds within three days of being admitted. © Craig Peters/St. Joseph’s Healthcare

Staff surprised

Kho says she and staff were surprised to find that patients in intensive care who were hooked up to ventilators could cycle for about 30 minutes, six days a week. A mechanized bicycle was brought to their beds and their feet were strapped to the pedals. The machine could push the pedals, moving their legs for them, or they could take over, all under the careful supervision of an ICU physiotherapist.

Kho plans a much larger study to compare what happens to patients who only had regular physiotherapy to those who had physiotherapy plus the cycling. She suspects that those who cycled will “go home sooner, stronger and happier.”

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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