Pulmonary hypertension and exercise intolerance in patients with heart failure

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1999 Nov 15;34(6):1802-6. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(99)00408-8.


Objectives: This study was undertaken to investigate the relationship between pulmonary hypertension and exercise performance in patients with heart failure.

Background: The exercise capacity of patients with heart failure is frequently reduced. Pulmonary hypertension may contribute to this exercise intolerance by impairing blood flow through the pulmonary circulation.

Method: Three hundred twenty patients with heart failure underwent upright treadmill exercise testing with hemodynamic monitoring. The incidence of pulmonary hypertension and the relationship between pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR) and exercise cardiac output and minute oxygen consumption (VO2) were examined.

Results: Pulmonary vascular resistance was normal (<1.5 Wood Units; Group 1) in 28% of the patients, mildly elevated (1.5 to 2.49 Wood Units; Group 2) in 36%, moderately elevated (2.5 to 3.49 Wood Units; Group 3) in 17% and severely elevated (>3.5 Wood Units; Group 4) in 19%. Increasing PVR was associated with significantly lower peak exercise VO2 (Group 1: 13.9+/-3.7; 2:13.7+/-3.4; 3: 11.8+/-2.4; 4: 11.5+/-2.6 L/min, p<0.01 Groups 3 and 4 vs. 1) and lower peak exercise cardiac output (Group 1: 10.0+/-2.8, 2:9.0+/-3.0; 3: 7.4+/-2.1; 4: 6.3+/-2.0 L/min, p<0.05, Groups 2, 3 and 4 vs. 1). The pulmonary wedge pressure decreased during exercise, consistent with impaired left ventricular filling, in 36% of patients with severe pulmonary hypertension (Group 4) versus only 13% of patients with normal PVR (p<0.01).

Conclusions: Pulmonary vascular resistance is frequently increased in heart failure and is associated with a reduced cardiac output response to exercise, suggesting that pulmonary hypertension impairs exercise performance in heart failure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Tolerance*
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / complications*
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology*
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / complications*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Vascular Resistance