Outcomes Research in Review

Multicomponent Exercise Program Can Reverse Hospitalization-Associated Functional Decline in Elderly Patients

Martinez-Velilla N, Casas-Herrero A, Zambom-Ferraresi F, et al. Effect of exercise intervention on functional decline in very elderly patients during acute hospitalization: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2018 Nov 12.



Study Overview

Objective. To assess the effects of an individualized, multicomponent exercise intervention on the functional status of very elderly patients who were acutely hospitalized compared with those who received usual care.

Design. A single-center, single-blind randomized clinical trial comparing elderly (≥ 75 years old) hospitalized patients who received in-hospital exercise (ie, individualized low-intensity resistance, balance, and walking exercises) versus control (ie, usual care that included physical rehabilitation if needed) interventions. The exercise intervention was adapted from the multicomponent physical exercise program Vivifrail and was supervised and conducted by a fitness specialist in 2 daily (1 morning and 1 evening) sessions lasting 20 minutes for 5 to 7 consecutive days. The morning session consisted of supervised and individualized progressive resistance, balance, and walking exercises. The evening session consisted of functional unsupervised exercises including light weights, extension and flexion of knee and hip, and walking.

Setting and participants. The study was conducted in an acute care unit in a tertiary public hospital in Navarra, Spain, between 1 February 2015 and 30 August 2017. A total of 370 elderly patients undergoing acute care hospitalization were enrolled in the study and randomly assigned to receive in-hospital exercise or control intervention. Inclusion criteria were: age ≥ 75 years, Barthel Index score ≥ 60, and ambulatory with or without assistance.

Main outcome measures. The primary outcome was change in functional capacity from baseline (beginning of exercise or control intervention) to hospital discharge as assessed by the Barthel Index of independence and the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB). Secondary outcomes were changes in cognitive capacity (Mini-Mental State Examination [MMSE]) and mood status (Yesavage Geriatric Depression Scale [GDS]), quality of life (QoL; EuroQol-5D), handgrip strength (dominant hand), incident delirium (Confusion Assessment Method), length of stay (LOS), falls during hospitalization, transfer after discharge, and readmission rate and mortality at 3 months after discharge. Intention-to-treat analysis was conducted.

Main results. Of the 370 patients included in the study’s analyses, 209 (56.5%) were women, mean age was 87.3 ± 4.9 years (range, 75-101 years; 130 [35.1%] nonagenarians). The median LOS was 8 days in both groups (interquartile range [IQR], 4 and 4 days, respectively). The median duration of the intervention was 5 days (IQR, 0 days), with 5 ± 1 morning and 4 ± 1 evening sessions in the exercise group. Adherence to the exercise intervention was high (95.8% for morning sessions; 83.4% for evening sessions), and no adverse effects were observed with the intervention.

The in-hospital exercise intervention program yielded significant benefits over usual care in functional outcomes in elderly patients. The exercise group had an increased change in measures of functional capacity compared to the usual care group (ie, Barthel Index, 6.9 points; 95% confidence interval [CI], 4.4-9.5; SPPB score, 2.2 points; 95% CI, 1.7-2.6). Furthermore, acute hospitalization led to an impairment in functional capacity from baseline to discharge in the Barthel Index (−5.0 points; 95% CI, −6.8 to −3.2) in the usual care group. In contrast, exercise intervention reversed this decline and improved functional outcomes as assessed by Barthel Index (1.9 points; 95% CI, 0.2-3.7) and SPPB score (2.4 points; 95% CI, 2.1-2.7).

The beneficial effects of the in-hospital exercise intervention extended to secondary end points indicative of cognitive capacity (MMSE, 1.8 points; 95% CI, 1.3-2.3), mood status (GDS, −2.0 points; 95% CI, −2.5 to −1.6), QoL (EuroQol-5D, 13.2 points; 95% CI, 8.2-18.2), and handgrip strength (2.3 kg; 95% CI, 1.8-2.8) compared to those who received usual care. In contrast, no differences were observed between groups that received exercise intervention and usual care in incident delirium, LOS, falls during hospitalization, transfer after discharge, and 3-month hospital readmission rate and mortality.

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