April 18, 2019  

Current weather

Overcast, 77 °F

Researchers Test New Therapies to Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Spinal Cord Injury Patients

Main Content
Dr. Daniel Credeur and Lena Cialdella, of the Southern Miss School of Kinesiology, conduct intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) on spinal cord injury patient Chris Williams.

Exercise is commonly prescribed to improve cardiovascular health, but since individuals with spinal cord injuries cannot move their legs, alternatives must be sought. Researchers at The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Kinesiology are evaluating other methods to improve cardiovascular health among individuals with this challenge.

Dr. Daniel Credeur, assistant professor of exercise science; Lena Cialdella, a master’s student in exercise science; and Dr. David Dolbow, assistant professor of kinesiotherapy are testing the effect of intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) on leg blood flow and vascular function in spinal cord injury patients. Cialdella is using the study for her master’s degree thesis.

“Individuals with spinal cord injury are three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than able bodied individuals,” said Credeur. “We are addressing this public health problem by looking into how to treat, prevent or restrain the decline in cardiovascular health and functional capacity in this population.”

Credeur said any type of stimulation that can increase blood flow through the arms or legs can improve their overall cardiovascular health. Traditional therapy for spinal cord injury patients uses electricity to stimulate the muscles, called neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES). The technology is available at the School of Kinesiology and at some health clinics, but it is not readily available for a majority of patients. The therapy typically requires a prescription, and if it is not covered by insurance can be expensive.

“The IPC therapy could be conducted in a clinic or at home,” said Cialdella. “If it works, then it could improve their vascular health and function even if they can’t move their legs. This helps decrease their risk of cardiovascular disease.”

IPC therapy applies sequential compression through pressure cuffs that inflate for four seconds and deflate for 16 seconds. An ultrasound is used to monitor how blood flow and vascular function are responding to the hour long intervention. So far Credeur and Cialdella have observed a 40 to 50 percent increase in blood flow in the calf and foot region within the first 15 minutes of IPC therapy. 

Ten individuals from the surrounding Hattiesburg and Gulfport, Miss. areas with spinal cord injuries will patriciate in the study. The majority of participants acquired their injury following a car crash or severe fall.
“Our hope is to develop an easier, more convenient and cost effective method to treat cardiovascular disease,” said Credeur. “They could put the cuffs on while working at their desk.”

Looking ahead to future research areas, Credeur is interested in directly comparing IPC and NMES and evaluating the benefits of combining the two therapies. 

For more information about the School of Kinesiology in The University of Southern Mississippi’s College of Health visit, www.usm.edu/kinesiology. Information about participating in this study can be found at www.usm.edu/kinesiology/school-kinesiology-research.