Acute effects of leg heat therapy on walking performance and cardiovascular and inflammatory responses to exercise in patients with peripheral artery disease


Lower-extremity peripheral artery disease (PAD) is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events and impaired exercise tolerance. We have previously reported that leg heat therapy (HT) applied using liquid-circulating trousers perfused with warm water increases leg blood flow and reduces blood pressure (BP) and the circulating levels of endothelin-1 (ET-1) in patients with symptomatic PAD. In this sham-controlled, randomized, crossover study, sixteen patients with symptomatic PAD (age 65 ± 5.7 years and ankle-brachial index: 0.69 ± 0.1) underwent a single 90-min session of HT or a sham treatment prior to a symptom-limited, graded cardiopulmonary exercise test on the treadmill. The primary outcome was the peak walking time (PWT) during the exercise test. Secondary outcomes included the claudication onset time (COT), resting and exercise BP, calf muscle oxygenation, pulmonary oxygen uptake (V̇O2), and plasma levels of ET-1, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-$α$). Systolic, but not diastolic BP, was significantly lower ($∼$7 mmHg, p <.05) during HT when compared to the sham treatment. There was also a trend for lower SBP throughout the exercise and the recovery period following HT (p =.057). While COT did not differ between treatments (p =.77), PWT tended to increase following HT (CON: 911 ± 69 s, HT: 954 ± 77 s, p =.059). Post-exercise plasma levels of ET-1 were also lower in the HT session (CON: 2.0 ± 0.1, HT: 1.7 ± 0.1, p =.02). Calf muscle oxygenation, V̇O2, COT, IL-6, and TNF-$α$ did not differ between treatments. A single session of leg HT lowers BP and post-exercise circulating levels of ET-1 and may enhance treadmill walking performance in symptomatic PAD patients.

Physiological Reports