Published: 20 April 2021
A study supported by NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre has found that cycling at moderate intensity during dialysis could drastically improve the heart health of patients with kidney failure and could also result in significant savings for the NHS.
Dialysis can lead to long-term scarring of the heart, which can accumulate over time and lead to heart failure. The study set out to examine whether exercise could reduce these side-effects. The patients who took part in the CYCLE-HD study were offered 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on a specially adapted bicycle during their regular dialysis sessions.
After six months, participants’ hearts were assessed with an MRI scan and compared with pre-trial imaging. Patients who had cycled showed improvements in several aspects of heart health – their hearts were more like a ‘normal’ size, they had less scarring, and there was less stiffness of the major blood vessels.
Findings have shown a saving in healthcare costs of more than £1,400 per patient which, when balanced against the cost of the exercise equipment, could result in significant savings for the NHS.
James Burton, a chief investigator on the study, said: “We know that being more active can help reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as helping to control weight, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, and improve mental health.
“For all those reasons – but especially because the risk of heart disease is so high – keeping active is particularly important for people on dialysis. Unfortunately, by the time that someone has travelled to and from the dialysis unit, and spent four hours connected up to the dialysis machine, there’s very little time to do anything else that day, and the reality is that this happens three times a week for most patients.
“The findings of this study offer significant improvements to the heart health of dialysis patients which may have a major impact on their outlook.”
Lord Bethell, Minister for Innovation, said “Keeping active has a range of health benefits – both physical and mental – and the importance of exercise has become increasingly apparent over recent months with its impact on COVID-19.
Not only does this research show we can reduce the side effects of dialysis, but it could also mean a significant saving for the NHS.”