Heart rate responses during the 6-minute walk test in pulmonary arterial hypertension

S Provencher, D Chemla, P Hervé, O Sitbon, M Humbert, G Simonneau
European Respiratory Journal 2006, 27 (1): 114-20
Patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) exhibit a limited increase in stroke volume on exercise, and the heart rate (HR) increases may reflect the main mechanism that allows cardiac output to increase. The current prospective study documented the contribution of HR to the 6-min walking distance (6MWD) in idiopathic (IPAH) and nonidiopathic PAH. Eighty-three patients (46 IPAH and 37 nonidiopathic PAH) underwent haemodynamic evaluation and a 6MWD test. Chronotropic response (peak walking HR minus resting HR) and peripheral oxygen saturation were monitored. Fifty-seven patients were also assessed after 5+/-2 months of treatment (bosentan n = 38, epoprostenol n = 14, bosentan-epoprostenol n = 3, iloprost n = 2). Before treatment, the 6MWD was related to numerous demographic, haemodynamic and walking test characteristics. Stepwise regression analysis indicated that the only factors significantly associated with the 6MWD were stroke volume and chronotropic response in both IPAH and nonidiopathic PAH patients. Following treatment, changes in 6MWD were significantly related to changes in chronotropic response in both IPAH and nonidiopathic PAH. In conclusion, baseline stroke volume and chronotropic response were independently associated with the 6-min walking distance in pulmonary arterial hypertension. The lack of chronotropic response may reflect the loss in normal physiological reserve in more unwell patients.

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