JOURNAL ARTICLE
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, P.H.S.
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Prognostic value of treadmill exercise testing in elderly persons.

BACKGROUND: Recent exercise testing guidelines recognized a gap in knowledge about the prognostic value of treadmill exercise testing in elderly persons.

OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that treadmill exercise testing has equal prognostic value among elderly (> or =65 years of age) and younger (<65 years of age) persons and to examine the incremental value of this testing over clinical data.

DESIGN: Inception cohort with a median follow-up of 6 years.

SETTING: Olmsted County, Minnesota.

PATIENTS: All elderly (n = 514) and younger (n = 2593) residents of Olmsted County who underwent treadmill exercise testing between 1987 and 1989.

MEASUREMENTS: Overall mortality and cardiac events (cardiac death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, and congestive heart failure).

RESULTS: Compared with younger patients, elderly patients had more comorbid conditions, achieved a lower workload (6.0 and 10.7 metabolic equivalents; P < 0.001), and had a greater likelihood of a positive exercise electrocardiogram (28% and 9%; P < 0.001). With median follow-up of 6 years, overall survival (63% and 92%; P < 0.001) and cardiac event-free survival (66% and 95%; P < 0.001) were worse among elderly persons than among younger persons. Workload was the only treadmill exercise testing variable associated with all-cause mortality in both age groups, and the strength of association was similar. Workload and angina with exercise testing were associated with cardiac events in both age groups, whereas a positive exercise electrocardiogram was associated with cardiac events only in younger persons (P < 0.05 for all comparisons). After adjustment for clinical variables, workload was the only additional treadmill exercise testing variable that was predictive of death (P < 0.001) and cardiac events (P < 0.05); the strength of the association was similar in both age groups. Each 1-metabolic equivalent increase in exercise capacity was associated with a 14% and 18% reduction in cardiac events among younger and elderly persons, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: In elderly persons, treadmill exercise testing provided prognostic information that is incremental to clinical data. After adjustment for clinical factors, work-load was the only treadmill exercise testing variable that was strongly associated with outcome, and its prognostic effect was of the same magnitude in elderly and younger persons.

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