Pulmonary hypertension is a condition with high morbidity and mortality. Resting transthoracic echocardiography is a pivotal diagnostic and screening test for pulmonary hypertension. The role of exercise stress echocardiography in the diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension is not well-established. We studied right ventricular size changes during exercise using exercise stress echocardiography to assess differences between normal and pulmonary hypertension patients and evaluate test safety, feasibility, and reproducibility. Healthy control and pulmonary hypertension patients performed recumbent exercise using a bicycle ergometer. Experienced echocardiography sonographers recorded the following resting and peak exercise right ventricular parameters using the apical four chamber view: end-diastolic area; end-systolic area; mid-diameter; basal diameter; and longitudinal diameter. Two cardiologists masked to clinical information subsequently analyzed the recordings. Parameters with acceptable inter-rater reliability were analyzed for statistical differences between the normal and pulmonary hypertension patient groups and their association with pulmonary hypertension. We enrolled 38 healthy controls and 40 pulmonary hypertension patients. Exercise stress echocardiography testing was found to be safe and feasible. Right ventricular size parameters were all readily obtainable and all had acceptable inter-observer reliability except for right ventricular longitudinal diameter. During exercise, healthy controls demonstrated a decrease in right ventricular end-systolic area, end-diastolic area, mid-diameter, and basal diameter ( P < 0.05). Conversely, pulmonary hypertension patients demonstrated an increase in right ventricular end-systolic area, end-diastolic area, and mid-diameter ( P < 0.05). These changes were unaffected by multivariate corrections. The sensitivity for pulmonary hypertension of an increase in right ventricular size was 97.2% with a negative predictive value of 95.2%. The ROC C-statistic for increase in right ventricular size was 0.93. This transient exertional dilation (TED) of the right ventricle is observed in pulmonary hypertension patients but not in healthy controls. Recumbent right ventricular exercise stress echocardiography is a feasible and safe diagnostic test for pulmonary hypertension which warrants additional study.
Keywords: diagnosis; echocardiography; exercise; pathophysiology; pulmonary arterial hypertension.