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Testing an Exercise Intervention to Improve Aerobic Conditioning and Autonomic Function after an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)


  • Funding: National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 5R01 HL084550.

Address for reprints: Cynthia M. Dougherty, A.R.N.P., Ph.D., Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems, University of Washington School of Nursing, Box 357266, Seattle, WA 98195. Fax: 206-543-4771; e-mail:


Background: Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are an increasingly common treatment for survivors of sudden cardiac arrest or others with life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias. Health-care providers are often reluctant to prescribe exercise for this group because of the belief that it will provoke ventricular arrhythmias and cardiac arrest; patients are often afraid to exercise because of concern over receiving an ICD shock. A social cognitive theory-driven exercise intervention aimed at stabilizing cardiac arrhythmias and reducing ICD shocks by increasing parasympathetic autonomic nervous system control is described.

Methods: The exercise intervention has two phases that include an 8-week aerobic conditioning component followed by a 16-week exercise maintenance component. The aerobic exercise intervention is expected to have significant impact on cardiopulmonary function, ventricular arrhythmias, cardiac autonomic function, and self-efficacy in persons who have an ICD. The exercise intervention is currently being tested using a randomized clinical trial format, the results of which will be available in 2012.

Conclusion: The exercise after ICD trial is one of the first clinical trials to test the effects of aerobic exercise on cardiopulmonary outcomes after receiving an ICD for primary or secondary prevention of sudden cardiac arrest. (PACE 2010; 973–980)