Stapleton co-leads innovative ICU recovery study

Clinical trial will use protein supplementation and exercise to improve outcomes

Patients who survive an episode of critical illness can experience weakness and other limitations to their function long after they’ve left the hospital. But a unique, multi-site clinical trial aims to use a combination of early protein supplementation and exercise to improve outcomes for those patients.

The five-year Nutrition and Exercise in Critical Illness (NEXIS) trial will take place in four intensive care units (ICUs) across the United States, including at the UVM Medical Center. Renee Stapleton, MD, PhD, a professor and intensivist at UVM and the UVM Medical Center, is one of the study’s principal investigators. The trial will examine whether an intravenous amino acid supplement and in-bed cycling exercise improve recovery for patients requiring life support from a mechanical ventilator.

“ICU patients experience accelerated muscle wasting, believed to be related to the role of the inflammatory response in critical illness,” says Stapleton. She said researchers believe that ICU patients don’t get enough protein, which may play a part in muscle wasting.

This research is supported by a $3.5 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.