Background: Patients with heart failure (HF) develop abnormal pulmonary gas exchange; specifically, they have abnormal ventilation relative to metabolic demand (ventilatory efficiency/minute ventilation in relation to carbon dioxide production [V(E)/VCO₂]) during exercise. The purpose of this investigation was to examine the factors that underlie the abnormal breathing efficiency in this population.
Methods and results: Fourteen controls and 33 moderate-severe HF patients, ages 52 ± 12 and 54 ± 8 years, respectively, performed submaximal exercise (∼65% of maximum) on a cycle ergometer. Gas exchange and blood gas measurements were made at rest and during exercise. Submaximal exercise data were used to quantify the influence of hyperventilation (PaCO₂) and dead space ventilation (V(D)) on V(E)/VCO₂. The V(E)/VCO₂ relationship was lower in controls (30 ± 4) than HF (45 ± 9, P < .01). This was the result of hyperventilation (lower PaCO₂) and higher V(D)/V(T) that contributed 40% and 47%, respectively, to the increased V(E)/VCO₂ (P < .01). The elevated V(D)/V(T) in the HF patients was the result of a tachypneic breathing pattern (lower V(T), 1086 ± 366 versus 2003 ± 504 mL, P < .01) in the presence of a normal V(D) (11.5 ± 4.0 versus 11.9 ± 5.7 L/min, P = .095).
Conclusions: The abnormal ventilation in relation to metabolic demand in HF patients during exercise was due primarily to alterations in breathing pattern (reduced V(T)) and excessive hyperventilation.
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