Background: Exercise during haemodialysis improves strength and physical function. However, both patients and clinicians are time poor, and current exercise recommendations add an excessive time burden making exercise a rare addition to standard care. Hypothetically, blood flow restriction exercise performed during haemodialysis can provide greater value for time spent exercising, reducing this time burden while producing similar or greater outcomes. This study will explore the efficacy of blood flow restriction exercise for enhancing strength and physical function among haemodialysis patients. Methods: This is a randomised controlled trial design. A total of 75 participants will be recruited from haemodialysis clinics. Participants will be allocated to a blood flow restriction cycling group, traditional cycling group or usual care control group. Both exercising groups will complete 3 months of cycling exercise, performed intradialytically, three times per week. The blood flow restriction cycling group will complete two 10-min cycling bouts separated by a 20-min rest at a subjective effort of 15 on a 6 to 20 rating scale. This will be done with pressurised cuffs fitted proximally on the active limbs during exercise at 50% of a pre-determined limb occlusion pressure. The traditional cycling group will perform a continuous 20-min bout of exercise at a subjective effort of 12 on the same subjective effort scale. These workloads and volumes are equivalent and allow for comparison of a common blood flow restriction aerobic exercise prescription and a traditional aerobic exercise prescription. The primary outcome measures are lower limb strength, assessed by a three repetition maximum leg extension test, as well as objective measures of physical function: six-minute walk test, 30-s sit to stand, and timed up and go. Secondary outcome measures include thigh muscle cross sectional area, body composition, routine pathology, quality of life, and physical activity engagement. Discussion: This study will determine the efficacy of blood flow restriction exercise among dialysis patients for improving key physiological outcomes that impact independence and quality of life, with reduced burden on patients. This may have broader implications for other clinical populations with similarly declining muscle health and physical function, and those contraindicated to higher intensities of exercise. Trial registration: Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trial Register: ACTRN12616000121460.
- Blood flow restriction exercise
- End-stage kidney disease
- Physical function