Exercise Stress Real-Time Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging for Noninvasive Characterization of Heart Failure With Preserved Ejection Fraction: The HFpEF-Stress Trial

Circulation. 2021 Apr 13;143(15):1484-1498. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.051542. Epub 2021 Jan 21.


Background: Right heart catheterization using exercise stress is the reference standard for the diagnosis of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) but carries the risk of the invasive procedure. We hypothesized that real-time cardiac magnetic resonance (RT-CMR) exercise imaging with pathophysiologic data at excellent temporal and spatial resolution may represent a contemporary noninvasive alternative for diagnosing HFpEF.

Methods: The HFpEF-Stress trial (CMR Exercise Stress Testing in HFpEF; URL: https://www.clinicaltrials.gov; Unique identifier: NCT03260621. URL: https://dzhk.de/; Unique identifier: DZHK-17) prospectively recruited 75 patients with echocardiographic signs of diastolic dysfunction and dyspnea on exertion (E/e'>8, New York Heart Association class ≥II) to undergo echocardiography, right heart catheterization, and RT-CMR at rest and during exercise stress. HFpEF was defined according to pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (≥15 mm Hg at rest or ≥25 mm Hg during exercise stress). RT-CMR functional assessments included time-volume curves for total and early (1/3) diastolic left ventricular filling, left atrial (LA) emptying, and left ventricular/LA long axis strain.

Results: Patients with HFpEF (n=34; median pulmonary capillary wedge pressure at rest, 13 mm Hg; at stress, 27 mm Hg) had higher E/e' (12.5 versus 9.15), NT-proBNP (N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide; 255 versus 75 ng/L), and LA volume index (43.8 versus 36.2 mL/m2) compared with patients with noncardiac dyspnea (n=34; rest, 8 mm Hg; stress, 18 mm Hg; P≤0.001 for all). Seven patients were excluded because of the presence of non-HFpEF cardiac disease causing dyspnea on imaging. There were no differences in RT-CMR left ventricular total and early diastolic filling at rest and during exercise stress (P≥0.164) between patients with HFpEF and noncardiac dyspnea. RT-CMR revealed significantly impaired LA total and early (P<0.001) diastolic emptying in patients with HFpEF during exercise stress. RT-CMR exercise stress LA long axis strain was independently associated with HFpEF (adjusted odds ratio, 0.657 [95% CI, 0.516-0.838]; P=0.001) after adjustment for clinical and imaging measures and emerged as the best predictor for HFpEF (area under the curve at rest 0.82 versus exercise stress 0.93; P=0.029).

Conclusions: RT-CMR allows highly accurate identification of HFpEF during physiologic exercise and qualifies as a suitable noninvasive diagnostic alternative. These results will need to be confirmed in multicenter prospective research studies to establish widespread routine clinical use. Registration: URL: https://www.clinicaltrials.gov; Unique identifier: NCT03260621. URL: https://dzhk.de/; Unique identifier: DZHK-17.

Keywords: atrial function; exercise; heart failure.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03260621