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J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev


BACKGROUND: Some patients who participate in cardiac rehabilitation have aortic abnormalities, including abdominal and thoracic aneurysm (AAA and TAA, respectively). There is scant guidance on implementing exercise training in these individuals. This article reviews the epidemiology, diagnostic process, medical issues, and the available exercise training literature, and provides recommendations for performing regular exercise.

CLINICAL CONSIDERATIONS: Patients with aortic abnormalities are at risk for enlargement, aneurysm development, dissection, and rupture. During exercise, individuals with large aneurysms may be at greater risk of an adverse event. The available literature suggests little increased risk of complications when training at low and moderate intensities in those with an AAA, and exercise may be protective for aneurysm expansion. There is little exercise data for TAA, but the available literature suggests training at lower intensities and avoidance of excessive increases of blood pressure.

EXERCISE TESTING AND TRAINING: When exercise testing and training are performed, the intensity should be controlled to avoid complications. It is prudent to keep systolic blood pressure(eg, women and larger sized aneurysm) during aerobic training. During resistance training, patients should avoid sudden excessive blood pressure increases (ie, avoid the Valsalva maneuver), and keep intensity below 40-50% of the 1-repetition maximum. Existing data suggest these patients may improve functional capacity and reduce the rate of aneurysm expansion.

SUMMARY: Most patients with AAA can safely perform exercise training when conservative guidelines are followed. Additional research is needed to fully determine whether exercise is protective against aneurysm expansion, and the effects of exercise in those who have had surgical repair. More research is necessary to provide specific recommendations for those with a TAA.

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