Oxygen cost of exercise is increased in heart failure after accounting for recovery costs

Chest. 2003 Aug;124(2):572-9. doi: 10.1378/chest.124.2.572.


Study objectives: The oxygen cost during exercise has been reported to be decreased in patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), implying an increased efficiency (lower oxygen uptake [VO(2)] per Watt [VO(2)/W]); however, these studies ignored the oxygen debt that is increased in heart failure.

Subjects: The primary aim of this research was to evaluate the total oxygen cost (work VO(2)/W) during exercise and recovery in patients with heart failure as compared with healthy adults.

Design and patients: We performed a retrospective analysis comparing the exercise VO(2)/W, the recovery VO(2)/W, the work VO(2)/W, and the VO(2)/W relationship above and below the ventilatory threshold (VT) in 11 healthy control subjects and 45 patients with CHF.

Results: The exercise VO(2)/W was decreased by 29% (p < 0.0001) in patients with CHF; however, the recovery VO(2)/W was increased by 167% (p < 0.0001) and the work VO(2)/W was increased by 14% in patients with CHF (p = 0.014). The VO(2)/W slope increased above the VT (+ 27%, p = 0.0017) in both normal subjects and patients with CHF, suggesting a decrease in efficiency above the VT. There was an inverse correlation (r = 0.646, p < 0.0001) between exercise VO(2)/W and recovery VO(2)/W, implying that subjects with a low exercise VO(2)/W were not efficient but rather accumulated a large oxygen debt that was repaid following completion of exercise.

Conclusions: Heart failure is associated with lower exercise VO(2)/W; however, the patient with heart failure is not efficient, but rather accumulating a large oxygen debt (recovery VO(2)/W) that is repaid following exercise. In addition, the work VO(2)/W (including both exercise and recovery) is increased in patients with heart failure in comparison to control subjects, and correlates inversely with the percentage of predicted VO(2). The large recovery VO(2)/W is likely due to impaired oxygen delivery to exercising muscle during exercise. The increase in the work VO(2)/W is probably due to changes in skeletal muscle fiber type that occur in patients with heart failure (type I to type IIb).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Exercise Test*
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Retrospective Studies