Background: Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a progressive disease that is characterized by dyspnea and exercise intolerance. Impairment in skeletal muscle has recently been described in PAH, although the degree to which this impairment is solely determined by the hemodynamic profile remains uncertain. The aim of this study was to verify the association of structural and functional skeletal muscle characteristics with maximum exercise in PAH.
Methods: The exercise capacity, body composition, CT area of limb muscle, quality of life, quadriceps biopsy and hemodynamics of 16 PAH patients were compared with those of 10 controls.
Results: PAH patients had a significantly poorer quality of life, reduced percentage of lean body mass, reduced respiratory muscle strength, reduced resistance and strength of quadriceps and increased functional limitation at 6MWT and CPET. VO2 max was correlated with muscular variables and cardiac output. Bivariate linear regression models showed that the association between muscular structural and functional variables remained significant even after correcting for cardiac output.
Conclusion: Our study showed the coexistence of ventilatory and quadriceps weakness in face of exercise intolerance in the same group of PAH patients. More interestingly, it is the first time that the independent association between muscular pattern and maximum exercise capacity is evidenced in PAH, independently of cardiac index highlighting the importance of considering rehabilitation in the treatment strategy for PAH.