The relation of exercise-induced left ventricular (LV) outflow tract obstruction to functional capacity in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HC) is incompletely defined. Thus, we assessed the patterns of onset of physiologically provoked LV outflow gradients and exercise performance in 74 consecutive patients with HC (age 45 ± 16 years; 74% men) without LV outflow obstruction at rest. The subaortic gradients were measured serially using echocardiography in these 74 patients during maximum, symptom-limited, upright bicycle exercise testing. The time course of the provoked gradients and the relation to exercise performance were assessed. Of the 74 patients, 30 (41%) developed a dynamic LV outflow gradient of ≥30 mm Hg (mean 78 ± 37 mm Hg) during upright exercise testing that correlated highly with the gradients measured with the patients supine during the immediate recovery period (R² = 0.97). The 16 patients in whom outflow obstruction developed rapidly at low exercise levels (≤5 METs) had a significantly reduced exercise capacity (6.1 ± 1.3 vs 8.0 ± 1.6 METs; p <0.01) compared to the other 14 patients in whom obstruction appeared later at greater exercise levels of >5 METs. The timing of the gradient onset was not predictable from the baseline clinical and echocardiographic features, peak exercise LV outflow tract gradient, or symptoms. In conclusion, in patients with HC without outflow obstruction at rest, the earlier onset of LV outflow tract gradients during physiologic exercise was associated with impaired exercise performance. These findings have provided insights into the determinants of functional impairment in HC and support the potential value of exercise echocardiography in the clinical assessment of patients with HC.
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