Exercise increases age-related penetrance and arrhythmic risk in arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy-associated desmosomal mutation carriers

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013 Oct 1;62(14):1290-1297. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2013.06.033. Epub 2013 Jul 17.


Objectives: This study sought to determine how exercise influences penetrance of arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C) among patients with desmosomal mutations.

Background: Although animal models and anecdotal evidence suggest that exercise is a risk factor for ARVD/C, there have been no systematic human studies.

Methods: Eighty-seven carriers (46 male; mean age, 44 ± 18 years) were interviewed about regular physical activity from 10 years of age. The relationship of exercise with sustained ventricular arrhythmia (ventricular tachycardia/ventricular fibrillation [VT/VF]), stage C heart failure (HF), and meeting diagnostic criteria for ARVD/C (2010 Revised Task Force Criteria [TFC]) was studied.

Results: Symptoms developed in endurance athletes (N = 56) at a younger age (30.1 ± 13.0 years vs. 40.6 ± 21.1 years, p = 0.05); they were more likely to meet TFC at last follow-up (82% vs. 35%, p < 0.001) and have a lower lifetime survival free of VT/VF (p = 0.013) and HF (p = 0.004). Compared with those who did the least exercise per year (lowest quartile) before presentation, those in the second (odds ratio [OR]: 6.64, p = 0.013), third (OR: 16.7, p = 0.001), and top (OR: 25.3, p < 0.0001) quartiles were increasingly likely to meet TFC. Among 61 individuals who did not present with VT/VF, the 13 subjects experiencing a first VT/VF event over a mean follow-up of 8.4 ± 6.7 years were all endurance athletes (p = 0.002). Survival from a first VT/VF event was lowest among those who exercised most (top quartile) both before (p = 0.036) and after (p = 0.005) clinical presentation. Among individuals in the top quartile, a reduction in exercise decreased VT/VF risk (p = 0.04).

Conclusions: Endurance exercise and frequent exercise increase the risk of VT/VF, HF, and ARVD/C in desmosomal mutation carriers. These findings support exercise restriction for these patients.

Keywords: (stage C) heart failure; 2010 Revised Task Force Criteria; ARVD/C; CI; ECG; HF; ICD; IQR; OR; RV; TFC; VT/VF; arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia; arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy; cardiomyopathy; confidence interval; electrocardiogram; exercise; heart failure; implantable cardioverter-defibrillator; interquartile range; odds ratio; penetrance; right ventricular; ventricular arrhythmias; ventricular tachycardia/ventricular fibrillation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / genetics
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology
  • Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia / complications
  • Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia / genetics*
  • Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia / physiopathology
  • Desmosomes / genetics*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutation*
  • Penetrance*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors