A case for inspiratory muscle training in SCI: potential role as a preventative tool in infectious respiratory diseases like COVID-19.
Spinal cord series and cases. 2020;(1):87
INTRODUCTION Respiratory complications (RC) are a leading cause of death after spinal cord injury (SCI) due to compromised immune function and respiratory muscle weakness. Thus, individuals with SCI are at high risk of developing COVID-19 related RC. Results of a SCI clinical trial showed a supervised respiratory muscle training (RMT) program decreased risk of developing RC. The feasibility of conducting unsupervised RMT is not well documented. Four publications (n = 117) were identified in which unsupervised RMT was performed. Significant improvements in respiratory outcomes were reported in two studies: Maximal Inspiratory and Expiratory Pressure (MIP40% and MEP25%, respectively), Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF9%), seated and supine Forced Vital Capacity (FVC23% and 26%, respectively), and Peak Cough Flow (28%). This review and case report will attempt to show that an inspiratory muscle training (IMT) home exercise program (HEP) is feasible and may prepare the respiratory system for RC associated with COVID-19 in patients with SCI. CASE PRESENTATION A 23-year-old with tetraplegia (P1), history of mechanical ventilation, and hospitalization for RC, completed 27 IMT HEP sessions in one month. MIP and sustained MIP (SMIP) increased from baseline by 28% and 26.5%, respectively. Expiratory volumes and rates also improved (FVC, FEV1, and PEF: 11.7%, 8.3%, and 14.2%, respectively). DISCUSSION The effects of COVID-19 on patients with SCI remains inconclusive, but recent literature and the results of this case suggest that unsupervised IMT is feasible and may limit the severity of RC in patients with SCI who contract COVID-19.