Improving Frailty With a Rigorous Ambulation Intervention in Lung Transplant Patients

  • End date
    Dec 31, 2023
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    The Cleveland Clinic
Updated on 5 August 2021
lung transplant


The objective of this study is to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of dedicated ambulator-assisted physical activity in lung transplant inpatients. The primary hypothesis is that an ambulator-assisted intervention for lung transplant patients will prove feasible and may result in improved frailty, hospital outcomes, including less need for inpatient rehabilitation and shorter length of stay in the hospital.


Lung transplant is a lifesaving intervention for patients with advanced lung disease. In addition to this, patients can experience an improved quality of life and reduction in disability post transplant. Despite extensive candidate evaluation and pre-transplant scoring, waitlist mortality remains relatively high, in 2015 at 16.4 per 100 waitlist years and post-transplant 1-year mortality 16.6%.

Frailty is defined as a "generalized vulnerability to stressors" resulting from an accumulation of cognitive and physiologic deficits, which can lead to a significant decline in health following an additional stressor such, i.e. major surgery. Frailty has been associated with delayed graft function and mortality in kidney transplant recipients and waitlist mortality in liver transplant candidates. Components of frailty include weight loss, exhaustion (self-reported), weakness, slow walking speed and low physical activity, however all these components have a complex interplay.

In lung transplant, frailty was also found to be independently associated with patient-reported disability and with subsequent de-listing or death before transplant. There is conflicting evidence regarding the role of pre-transplant frailty on post-transplant outcomes in regards to overall post-operative mortality and hospital length of stay. However, prospective investigations have shown improvements in frailty following lung transplant can lead to improved disability over the first year following lung transplant.

Physical therapy interventions aimed at elderly, frail non-transplant population, were found to be successful at reducing future frailty and mobility related disability. Important components of these regimens include resistance and endurance building exercises to improve maximum oxygen consumption and muscular strength. Identifying at-risk candidates pre- and post-transplant may allow for interventions to improve outcomes. It may also assist in preventing re-admissions, since previous investigations have shown frailty was associated with 30-day hospital re-admissions in patients with after colorectal surgery.

Post-transplant, standard care should include physical activity for patients to help prevent post-operative atelectasis, increase energy, fuel appetite and reduce frailty. In lung transplant patients, exercise following transplantation has been shown to beneficial for muscular strength, six-minute walk distance and self-reported physical functioning. However the reality of care is that physical therapy availability may limit patients from ambulating more than once daily while hospitalized. An improvement in the level of activity available to patients is critical to daily their daily progress after transplant.

The investigators hypothesize that a graded protocol of ambulation which can be implemented by a dedicated patient care nursing assistant (PCNA) multiple times daily will provide significant benefit to patients without the labor and cost requirements of full-time nursing and physical therapy expertise.

The investigators believe this intervention will improve frailty in participants. These benefits will be objectively measured with evaluation of frailty during the pre- and post-transplant period, along with documentation of hospital length of stay, discharge disposition, overall mortality, 30-day readmission rate, and the number of inpatient falls.

Condition Difficulty walking, Sarcopenia, Frail Elderly Syndrome, Transplant-Related Disorder, Lung Graft Dysfunction, Transplant-Related Disorder, mobility limitations, Transplant-Related Disorder, Transplant-Related Disorder, Transplant-Related Disorder, Transplant-Related Disorder, Transplant-Related Disorder
Treatment ambulation
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03636412
SponsorThe Cleveland Clinic
Last Modified on5 August 2021


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Inclusion Criteria (pre-transplant)
Participant has personally signed and dated informed consent form indicating understanding of all pertinent aspects of the study
Speaks fluent English
Active on the waiting list for a single or bilateral lung transplant
Able to ambulate pre-transplant (not bed/wheelchair bound) with or without assistive device
Inclusion Criteria (post-transplant)
Have undergone a single or bilateral lung transplant
Admitted to the transplant floor (J82) after discharge from the ICU
Complete history and physical examination on file
Physical therapy consult ordered (standard of care) and JH-HLM Scale of greater than or equal to 6 within 72 hours of transfer to the transplant floor

Exclusion Criteria

Age <18 years
Admitted to hospital for expedited transplant work-up
Admitted to hospital prior to date of transplant
Current invasive mechanical ventilation or placement of ECMO cannula
Multi-organ transplant patients (liver-lung, heart-lung)
Exclusion Criteria (post-transplant)
Bed rest order placed
Requiring invasive mechanical ventilation during the day/night
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