The purposes of this study were three-fold: (a) to determine acute physiologic responses of spinal cord injured (SCI) subjects to peak levels of leg cycle ergometry utilizing functional neuromuscular stimulation (FNS) of paralyzed leg muscles, (b) to determine the relative contributions of passive and active components of FNS cycling to the peak physiologic responses, and (c) to compare these physiologic responses between persons who have quadriplegia and those who have paraplegia. Thirty SCI subjects (17 quadriplegics and 13 paraplegics) performed a discontinuous graded FNS exercise test from rest to fatigue on an ERGYS 1 ergometer. Steady-state physiologic responses were determined by open-circuit spirometry, impedance cardiography with ECG, and auscultation. In the combined statistics of both groups, it was noted that peak FNS cycling significantly increased (from rest levels) mean oxygen uptake by 255%, arteriovenous O2 difference VO2 and VE, Q and a-vO2 and VCO by 69%, and stroke volume by 45%, while total peripheral vascular resistance decreased by 43%. Mean peak power output for paraplegics (15 W) was significantly higher than for quadriplegics (9 W), eliciting higher peak levels of pulmonary ventilation and sympathetically mediated hemodynamic responses such as cardiac output, heart rate, and systolic and diastolic arterial blood pressure. Passive cycling without FNS produced no statistically significant increases in physiologic responses above the resting level in either group.
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