Inspiratory muscle training enhances recovery post COVID-19: a randomised controlled trial

Melitta A. McNarry, Ronan M. G. Berg, James Shelley, Joanne Hudson, Zoe L. Saynor, Jamie Duckers, Keir Lewis, Gwyneth A. Davies, Kelly A. Mackintosh

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Background - Many people recovering from COVID-19 experience prolonged symptoms, particularly breathlessness. We urgently need to identify safe and effective COVID-19 rehabilitative strategies. The aim of the current study was to investigate the potential rehabilitative role of inspiratory muscle training (IMT).

Methods - 281 adults (46.6±12.2 years; 88% female) recovering from self-reported COVID-19 (9.0±4.2 months post-acute infection) were randomised 4:1 to an 8-week IMT or a “usual care” wait list control arm. Health-related quality of life and breathlessness questionnaires (King's Brief Interstitial Lung Disease (KBILD) and Transition Dyspnoea Index (TDI)), respiratory muscle strength and fitness (Chester Step Test) were assessed pre- and post-intervention. The primary endpoint was KBILD total score, with the KBILD subdomains and TDI being key secondary outcomes.

Results - According to intention to treat (ITT), there was no difference between groups in KBILD total score post-intervention (Control: 59.5±12.4; IMT: 58.2±12.3; p<0.05) but IMT elicited clinically meaningful improvements in the KBILD subdomains of breathlessness (Control: 59.8±12.6; IMT: 62.2±16.2; p<0.05) and chest symptoms (Control: 59.2±18.7; IMT: 64.5±18.2; p<0.05), along with clinically meaningful improvements in breathlessness according to TDI (Control: 0.9±1.7 versus 2.0±2.0; p<0.05). IMT also improved respiratory muscle strength and estimated aerobic fitness.

Conclusions - IMT may represent an important home-based rehabilitation strategy for wider implementation as part of COVID-19 rehabilitative strategies. Given the diverse nature of long-COVID, further research is warranted on the individual responses to rehabilitation - the withdrawal rate herein highlights that no one strategy is likely to be appropriate for all.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number4
Early online date2 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2022


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