Aims: Intense exercise places disproportionate strain on the right ventricle (RV) which may promote pro-arrhythmic remodelling in some athletes. RV exercise imaging may enable early identification of athletes at risk of arrhythmias.
Methods and results: Exercise imaging was performed in 17 athletes with RV ventricular arrhythmias (EA-VAs), of which eight (47%) had an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD), 10 healthy endurance athletes (EAs), and seven non-athletes (NAs). Echocardiographic measures included the RV end-systolic pressure-area ratio (ESPAR), RV fractional area change (RVFAC), and systolic tricuspid annular velocity (RV S'). Cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) measures combined with invasive measurements of pulmonary and systemic artery pressures provided left-ventricular (LV) and RV end-systolic pressure-volume ratios (SP/ESV), biventricular volumes, and ejection fraction (EF) at rest and during intense exercise. Resting measures of cardiac function were similar in all groups, as was LV function during exercise. In contrast, exercise-induced increases in RVFAC, RV S', and RVESPAR were attenuated in EA-VAs during exercise when compared with EAs and NAs (P < 0.0001 for interaction group × workload). During exercise-CMR, decreases in RVESV and augmentation of both RVEF and RV SP/ESV were significantly less in EA-VAs relative to EAs and NAs (P < 0.01 for the respective interactions). Receiver-operator characteristic curves demonstrated that RV exercise measures could accurately differentiate EA-VAs from subjects without arrhythmias [AUC for ΔRVESPAR = 0.96 (0.89-1.00), P < 0.0001].
Conclusion: Among athletes with normal cardiac function at rest, exercise testing reveals RV contractile dysfunction among athletes with RV arrhythmias. RV stress testing shows promise as a non-invasive means of risk-stratifying athletes.
Keywords: Arrhythmias; Arrhythmogenic Right ventricular cardiomyopathy; Athletes; Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging; Echocardiography; Exercise; Right ventricle; Sports cardiology.
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