Diagnostic Yield of Customized Exercise Provocation Following Routine Testing

Am J Cardiol. 2019 Jun 15;123(12):2044-2050. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2019.03.027. Epub 2019 Mar 19.


Clinical guidelines advocate for customization of exercise testing to address patient-specific diagnostic goals, including reproduction of presenting exertional symptoms. However, the diagnostic yield of adding customized exercise testing to graded exercise in patients presenting with exertional complaints has not been rigorously examined and is the focus of this study. Using prospectively collected data, we analyzed the diagnostic yield of customized additional exercise provocation following inconclusive graded exercise test with measurement of gas exchange. Additional testing was defined as "positive" if it revealed a clinically-actionable diagnosis related to the chief complaint or reproduced symptoms in the absence of an explanatory diagnosis or pathology. Of 1,110 patients who completed a graded test, 122 (11%) symptomatic patients underwent additional customized exercise testing (e.g., sprint intervals and race simulations). Compared with those who did not undergo additional testing, this group was younger (29 [interquartile range 19 to 45] vs 46 [25 to 58] year old) and disproportionately female (43% vs 27%). Presenting symptoms included palpitations (46%), lightheadedness/syncope (25%), chest pain (14%), dyspnea (11%), and exertional intolerance (3%). Additional testing was "positive" in 48 of 122 (39%) of patients by revealing a clinically actionable diagnosis in 26 of 48 (54%) or reproducing symptoms without an explanatory diagnosis in 22 of 48 (46%). In conclusion, while patient-centered customization of exercise testing is suggested by clinical guidelines, these data are the first to demonstrate that the selective addition of customized exercise provocation following inconclusive graded exercise testing improves the diagnostic yield of exercise assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Exercise Test*
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange / physiology*
  • Symptom Assessment
  • Young Adult