Impact of supervised exercise on skeletal muscle blood flow and vascular function measured with MRI in patients with peripheral artery disease

Erin K. Englund, Michael C. Langham, Felix W. Wehrli, Molly J. Fanning, Zeeshan Khan, Kathryn H. Schmitz, Sarah J. Ratcliffe, Thomas F. Floyd, Emile R. Mohler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Supervised exercise is a common therapeutic intervention for patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD), however, the mechanism underlying the improvement in claudication symptomatology is not completely understood. The hypothesis that exercise improves microvascular blood flow is herein tested via temporally resolved magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measurement of blood flow and oxygenation dynamics during reactive hyperemia in the leg with the lower ankle-brachial index. One hundred and forty-eight subjects with PAD were prospectively assigned to standard medical care or 3 mo of supervised exercise therapy. Before and after the intervention period, subjects performed a graded treadmill walking test, and MRI data were collected with Perfusion, Intravascular Venous Oxygen saturation, and T2* (PIVOT), a method that simultaneously quantifies microvascular perfusion, as well as relative oxygenation changes in skeletal muscle and venous oxygen saturation in a large draining vein. The 3-mo exercise intervention was associated with an improvement in peak walking time (64% greater in those randomized to the exercise group at follow-up, P < 0.001). Significant differences were not observed in the MRI measures between the subjects randomized to exercise therapy versus standard medical care based on an intention-to-treat analysis. However, the peak postischemia perfusion averaged across the leg between baseline and follow-up visits increased by 10% (P = 0.021) in participants that were adherent to the exercise protocol (completed >80% of prescribed exercise visits). In this cohort of adherent exercisers, there was no difference in the time to peak perfusion or oxygenation metrics, suggesting that there was no improvement in microvascular function nor changes in tissue metabolism in response to the 3-mo exercise intervention.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Supervised exercise interventions can improve symptomatology in patients with peripheral artery disease, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear. Here, MRI was used to evaluate perfusion, relative tissue oxygenation, and venous oxygen saturation in response to cuff-induced ischemia. Reactive hyperemia responses were measured before and after 3 mo of randomized supervised exercise therapy or standard medical care. Those participants who were adherent to the exercise regimen had a significant improvement in peak perfusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H388-H396
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Heart and circulatory physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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