Gas exchange detection of exercise-induced right-to-left shunt in patients with primary pulmonary hypertension

Xing-Guo Sun, James E Hansen, Ronald J Oudiz, Karlman Wasserman
Circulation 2002 January 1, 105 (1): 54-60

BACKGROUND: Because of high pulmonary vascular resistance in patients with primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH), right atrial pressure may exceed left atrial pressure during exercise, resulting in a right-to-left shunt via a patent foramen ovale (PFO). This shunting would disturb arterial PCO2 and H+ homeostasis if the pulmonary blood were not simultaneously hyperventilated to compensate for the high CO2 and H+ in the shunted blood. This article first hypothesizes and then describes unique changes in gas exchange when right-to-left exercise-induced shunting (EIS) occurs.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Retrospectively, the cardiopulmonary exercise tests of 71 PPH patients were studied. Criteria postulated to document hyperventilation of the pulmonary blood flow due to a right-to-left EIS were (1) an abrupt and sustained increase in end-tidal O2 with a simultaneous sustained decrease in end-tidal CO2; (2) an abrupt and sustained increase in the respiratory exchange ratio; and (3) usually, an associated decline in pulse oximetry saturation. Each patient was evaluated for a PFO with resting echocardiography. The investigators interpreting the gas exchange evidence of EIS were blinded to the echocardiographic readings. Forty-five percent of the patients had demonstrable EIS by gas exchange criteria. Almost all were also positive for a PFO by echocardiography. Using the resting echocardiograph as the reference, the sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, and accuracy were all between 90% to 96%.

CONCLUSIONS: Exercise-induced right-to-left shunting can be detected by noninvasive, cardiopulmonary exercise testing in patients with PPH.

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