People with Rett syndrome have deficient central autonomic control, which may interfere with walking. We have limited knowledge regarding the effects of exertion during physical activity in Rett syndrome. The aim was to investigate the autonomic responses during walking on a treadmill in Rett syndrome. Twenty-six females, 12 with Rett syndrome and 14 healthy females were included. All individuals started on the treadmill by standing still, followed by walking slowly with progressive speed until reaching maximum individual speed, which they kept for 6 min. Heart rate (HR), systolic (SBP), diastolic (DBP), mean arterial blood pressures (MAP), cardiac vagal tone (CVT), cardiac sensitivity to baroreflex (CSB), transcutaneous partial pressures of oxygen (pO2), carbon dioxide (pCO2), and breathing movements were recorded simultaneously and continuously. Autonomic responses were assessed by MAP, CSB and CVT during walking at 3 and 6 min. The changes in CSB and CVT in people with Rett syndrome compared to controls indicated more arousal, but only when the treadmill was started; as they continued walking, the arousal dropped to control level. People with Rett syndrome exhibited little changes in pCO2 whereas the controls showed increased values during walking. This suggests poor aerobic respiration in people with Rett syndrome during walking. Five people with Rett syndrome had Valsalva type of breathing at rest, three of those had normal breathing while walking on the treadmill while the remaining two started but soon stopped the Valsalva breathing during the walk. Our results show that individuals with Rett syndrome can walk for up to 6 min at their own maximum sustainable speed on a treadmill. Energy production may be low during walking in Rett syndrome, which could cause early tiredness. A treadmill can be used in people with Rett syndrome, but must be introduced slowly and should be individually tailored. We propose that walking promotes regular breathing in Rett syndrome.
MEDICIN OCH HÄLSOVETENSKAP -- Hälsovetenskaper -- Sjukgymnastik (hsv//swe)
MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES -- Health Sciences -- Physiotherapy (hsv//eng)