Background: Accurately establishing prognosis in severe heart failure has become increasingly important in assessing the efficacy of treatment modalities and in appropriately allocating scarce resources for transplantation. Peak exercise oxygen uptake appears to have an important role in risk stratification of patients with heart failure, but the optimal cutpoint value to separate survivors from nonsurvivors is not clear.
Methods: Six hundred forty-four patients referred for heart failure evaluation over a 10-year period participated in the study. After pharmacologic stabilization at entrance into the study, all participants underwent cardiopulmonary exercise testing. Survival analysis was performed with death as the end point. Transplantation was considered a censored event. Four-year survival was determined for patients who achieved peak oxygen uptake values greater than and less than 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 mL/kg/min.
Results: Follow-up information was complete for 98.3% of the cohort. During a mean follow-up period of 4 years, 187 patients (29%) died and 101 underwent transplantation. Actuarial 1- and 5-year survival rates were 90.5% and 73.4%, respectively. Peak ventilatory oxygen uptake (VO(2)) was an independent predictor of survival and was a stronger predictor than work rate achieved and other exercise and clinical variables. A difference in survival of approximately 20% was achieved by dichotomizing patients above versus below each peak VO(2) value ranging between 10 and 17 mL/kg/min. Survival rate was significantly higher among patients achieving a peak VO (2) above than among those achieving a peak VO (2) below each of these values (P <.01), but each cutpoint was similar in its ability to separate survivors from nonsurvivors.
Conclusion: Peak VO (2) is an important measurement in predicting survival from heart failure, but whether an optimal cutpoint exists is not clear. Peak VO(2) may be more appropriately used as a continuous variable in multivariate models to predict prognosis in severe chronic heart failure.