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European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine 2015 October;51(5):547-55


language: English

Application of the steep ramp test for aerobic fitness testing in children with cancer

Braam K. I. 1, Van Dulmen-Den Broeder E. 1, Veening M. A. 1, Merks J. H. 2, Van Den Heuvel-Eibrink M. M. 3, Kaspers G. J. 1, Takken T. 4

1 Department of Pediatric Oncology‑Haematology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; 2 Department of Pediatric Oncology, Emma Children’s Hospital/Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; 3 Department of Pediatric Oncology, Sophia Children’s Hospital, Erasmus MC Rotterdam, The Netherlands; 4 Child Development & Exercise Center, Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands


BACKGROUND: Children with and after cancer are found to have a decreased physical fitness, frequently resulting in decreased physical functioning. The gold standard test for assessing aerobic fitness, a component of physical fitness, is the respiratory gas analyses-based cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET). However, equipment for gas analysis is often unavailable in local physical therapy centres and non-university hospitals. The steep ramp test (SRT), is a cycle ergometer test with a fast increase in workload, a short duration, and does not require respiratory gas analysis equipment.
AIM: The aim of this study was to compare the results of the CPET and the SRT, in children with cancer, and to assess whether the SRT can be used for aerobic fitness assessment in clinical practice in this population.
DESIGN: This study is a cross-sectional assessment using baseline data of a randomized controlled trial.
SETTING: The study was performed in a hospital setting.
POPULATION: Sixty-one children (mean age 12.9 years; 33 boys) with cancer were included in the analysis; 16 children were on non-intensive chemotherapy treatment, 45 were in the first year thereafter.
METHODS: Participants performed both the SRT and the CPET on a cycle ergometer with respiratory gas analysis. Data of the two tests were compared and regression analyses were performed.
RESULTS: CPET test results revealed a higher impact on the cardiovascular system, as shown by higher peak ventilation (47.8 versus 52.0 Litres per min) and peak heart rates (173 versus 191 beats per min), compared to the SRT. In addition, the test time was significantly longer (90 s versus 390 s). Yet, the primary outcome of the SRT (peak work rate) was able to reliably estimate the peak oxygen uptake of the CPET.
CONCLUSION: The peak oxygen uptake was comparable between the SRT and the CPET, although the peak work rate was significantly higher during the SRT. This study showed that the SRT is a valid instrument to assess aerobic fitness in children with cancer.
CLINICAL REHABILITATION IMPACT: The SRT is less time consuming and can be performed without gas analysis in a non-clinical setting, making it less demanding for children.

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