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Study protocol to investigate the effects of testosterone therapy as an adjunct to exercise rehabilitation in hypogonadal males with chronic heart failure

John M Saxton1*, Irena Zwierska1, Atish Mathur2 and Kevin S Channer2

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Sport and Exercise Science, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK

2 Cardiology Department, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Sheffield, UK

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BMC Cardiovascular Disorders 2006, 6:46  doi:10.1186/1471-2261-6-46

Published: 30 November 2006



Testosterone deficiency is a common occurrence in men with chronic heart failure (CHF) and may underpin features of advanced disease, including reduced skeletal muscle mass and fatigue. It is positively correlated with cardiac output and exercise capacity in patients with CHF, whereas a significant improvement in both these parameters has been observed following testosterone replacement therapy. Testosterone therapy has also been shown to reduce circulating levels of inflammatory markers, (TNF-α, sICAM-1 and sVCAM-1) in patients with established coronary artery disease and testosterone deficiency. This pilot study will assess the feasibility of a combined exercise rehabilitation and adjunctive testosterone therapy intervention for evoking improvements in exercise capacity, circulating inflammatory markers, cardiac and skeletal muscle function, indices of psychological health status and quality of life in hypogonadal males with chronic heart failure.


Following ethical approval, 36 patients will be randomly allocated to one of two groups: testosterone or placebo therapy during exercise rehabilitation. A combined programme of moderate intensity aerobic exercise and resistance (strength) training will be used. The primary outcome measure is exercise capacity, assessed using an incremental shuttle walk test. Secondary outcome measures include measures of peak oxygen uptake, cardiac function, lower-limb skeletal muscle contractile function and oxygenation during exercise, circulating inflammatory markers, psychological health status and quality of life.


Exercise rehabilitation can safely increase exercise capacity in stable CHF patients but there is a need for studies which are aimed at evaluating the long-term effects of physical training on functional status, morbidity and mortality. This pilot study will provide valuable preliminary data on the efficacy of testosterone therapy as an adjunct to exercise rehabilitation on a range of functional, physiological and health-related outcomes in this patient population. Preliminary data will be used in the design of a large-scale randomised controlled trial, aimed at informing clinical practice with respect to optimisation of exercise rehabilitation in this patient group.