The objective of this study is to assess the effectiveness, feasibility, and safety of short-term inspiratory and expiratory muscle training (IEMT) in subacute stroke patients. This was achieved by randomly assigning 109 stroke patients, 2 weeks post stroke, into the IEMT (n=56) or sham IEMT (n=53) study groups. The IEMT consisted of 5 sets of 10 repetitions, twice a day, 5 days per week for 3 weeks, at a training workload equivalent to 30% of maximal respiratory pressures. The main outcome was respiratory muscle strength assessed by maximal inspiratory and expiratory pressures (PImax, PEmax). Respiratory complications at 6 months were also recorded. Both groups improved respiratory muscle strength during the study. IEMT was associated with significantly improved %PImax and %PEmax: effect size d = 0.74 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.28–1.20) and d = 0.56 (95% CI 0.11–1.02), respectively. No significant training effect was observed for peripheral muscle strength. Respiratory complications at 6 months occurred more frequently in the sham group (8 vs 2, p = 0.042), with an absolute risk reduction of 14%. The number needed to treat to prevent one lung infection event over a follow-up of 6 months was 7. No major adverse events or side effects were observed.
In conclusion IEMT induces significant improvement in inspiratory and expiratory muscle strength and could potentially offer an additional therapeutic tool aimed to reduce respiratory complications at 6 months in stroke patients.