Failure of the exercise test to predict the anterograde refractory period of the accessory pathway in Wolff Parkinson White syndrome

Pacing Clin Electrophysiol. 1988 Aug;11(8):1130-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-8159.1988.tb03964.x.


Modifications of the delta wave on the surface ECG during an exercise stress test were compared to electrophysiological variations in accessory pathway (AP) refractoriness and in AV node conduction, during intravenous isoproterenol infusion in ten patients with WPW syndrome. In one patient, the delta wave persisted unchanged at the end of exercise and, with isoproterenol, there was a greater reduction in the AP anterograde effective refractory period (AERP) than in AV node conduction time. In three patients, the delta wave became less and less apparent but without completely disappearing; in these patients, the slight reduction of the AERP in the accessory pathway with isoproterenol was comparable to the reduction in AV node conduction time, explaining the progressive fusion between the two activation fronts. In the six other patients, the delta wave completely disappeared during exercise: in two cases, suddenly from one cycle to the next with strong concordance between the measured (isoproterenol) and the estimated (exercise test) AERP in the AP; in four cases, the disappearance was progressive with a significantly greater reduction in the AV node conduction time than in the measured AERP of AP which was nonetheless very short, 190 to 225 ms, during isoproterenol infusion. These findings confirm the limitations of the exercise test to predict the AERP of the AP. In addition, they demonstrate that modifications in the delta wave during exercise result from a balance between the relative effects of sympathetic stimulation on refractoriness of AP and normal AV conduction.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiac Pacing, Artificial*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Electrophysiology
  • Exercise Test*
  • Female
  • Heart Conduction System / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Isoproterenol
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome / physiopathology


  • Isoproterenol