The Safety of Blood Flow Restriction Training as a Therapeutic Intervention for Patients With Musculoskeletal Disorders: A Systematic Review.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Systematic Review)

BACKGROUND: The effectiveness of blood flow restriction training (BFRT) as compared with other forms of training, such as resistance training, has been evaluated in the literature in clinical and nonclinical populations. However, the safety of this intervention has been summarized only in healthy populations and not in clinical populations with musculoskeletal disorders. PURPOSE: To evaluate the safety and adverse events associated with BFRT in patients with musculoskeletal disorders. STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review. METHODS: A literature search was conducted with 3 online databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, and Embase). Eligibility criteria for selecting studies were as follows: (1) BFRT was used as a clinical intervention, (2) study participants had a disorder of the musculoskeletal system, (3) authors addressed adverse events, (4) studies were published in English, and (5) the intervention was performed with human participants. RESULTS: Nineteen studies met eligibility criteria, with a pooled sample size of 322. Diagnoses included various knee-related disorders, inclusion body myositis, polymyositis or dermatomyositis, thoracic outlet syndrome, Achilles tendon rupture, and bony fractures. Nine studies reported no adverse events, while 3 reported rare adverse events, including an upper extremity deep vein thrombosis and rhabdomyolysis. Three case studies reported common adverse events, including acute muscle pain and acute muscle fatigue. In the randomized controlled trials, individuals exposed to BFRT were not more likely to have an adverse event than individuals exposed to exercise alone. Of the 19 studies, the adverse events were as follows: overall, 14 of 322; rare overall, 3 of 322; rare BFRT, 3 of 168; rare control, 0 of 154; any adverse BFRT, 10 of 168; any adverse control, 4 of 154. A majority of studies were excluded because they did not address safety. CONCLUSION: BFRT appears to be a safe strengthening approach for knee-related musculoskeletal disorders, but further research is needed to make definitive conclusions and to evaluate the safety in other musculoskeletal conditions. Improved definitions of adverse events related to BFRT are needed to include clear criteria for differentiating among common, uncommon, and rare adverse events. Finally, further research is needed to effectively screen who might be at risk for rare adverse events.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Minniti, MC; Statkevich, AP; Kelly, RL; Rigsby, VP; Exline, MM; Rhon, DI; Clewley, D

Published Date

  • June 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 48 / 7

Start / End Page

  • 1773 - 1785

PubMed ID

  • 31710505

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1552-3365

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0363546519882652


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States