Ventilation during exercise in chronic heart failure

K Wasserman, Y Y Zhang, M S Riley
Basic Research in Cardiology 1996, 91 Suppl 1: 1-11
The ventilatory response to exercise in patients with chronic heart failure (CHF) is greater than normal for a given work or metabolic rate (VO2). The factors that determine the ventilatory response to exercise are: 1) the CO2 production (VCO2), 2) the arterial CO2 set-point (arterial PCO2 (PaCO2) at rest), 3) the physiological dead space/tidal volume ratio (VD/VT), and 4) the change in PaCO2 during exercise. This report illustrates how each of these factors might influence the ventilatory response to exercise in CHF patients. Thirty-one CHF patients (New York Heart Association, Classes 2 and 3) were studied, 18 from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (cycle-ergometer exercise) and 13 from Queen's University at Belfast (treadmill exercise). A group of healthy subjects matched for size, age and gender served as control subjects. Minute ventilation (VE) was 48, 88 and 43% greater in the CHF groups compared to the control population at 6 min of the 25w and 60w cycle and low level (2.5 km h-1 and 5% grade) treadmill exercise, respectively. VO2 kinetics were slower in CHF patients than the control group, the slowing being proportional to the lactate increase. However, the increase in VO2 above rest at 6 min of exercise was approximately the same for CHF and control subjects. VCO2 at 6 min increased in the CHF patients by 7% and 34% for 25 and 60 watts cycle and 19% for treadmill exercise, respectively, compared to the control group. Because PaCO2 was not measured in this study, neither CO2 set-point nor the VD/VT could be individually calculated. Because end-tidal PCO2 will decrease when PaCO2 decreases or VD/VT increases, the combined effect of PaCO2 change and increase in VD/VT could be assessed from the difference between the patient and the control group. Since PETCO2 was significantly reduced in the patient population at the end of 60w cycle exercise (32 versus 41 mm Hg), either the VD/VT was increased and/or the PaCO2 was reduced. Because the resting PaCO2 is generally normal in CHF patients, the increase in the ventilatory response to exercise in patients with CHF can best be accounted for by three physiological mechanisms: 1) an increase in VCO2 secondary to CO2 release from bicarbonate as it buffers lactic acid, 2) the reduction in PaCO2 secondary to the lactic acidosis-induced hyperventilation, and 3) an increase in the fraction of breath that is wasted (dead space). Mathematically, these factors interact so that relatively small changes in each cause large changes in VE.

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