Importance of estimated functional capacity as a predictor of all-cause mortality among patients referred for exercise thallium single-photon emission computed tomography: report of 3,400 patients from a single center

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1997 Sep;30(3):641-8. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(97)00217-9.


Objectives: We sought to determine the relative influence of estimated functional capacity and thallium-201 (Tl-201) single-photon emission computed tomographic (SPECT) findings on prediction of short-term all-cause and cardiac-related mortality.

Background: Decreased functional capacity and abnormal Tl-201 SPECT findings are predictive of increased cardiovascular risk and mortality. However, the relative importance of these variables as predictors of all-cause mortality is not well established.

Methods: Analyses were based on 3,400 consecutive adults undergoing symptom-limited exercise Tl-201 SPECT testing at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation between September 1990 and December 1993; none had previous invasive procedures, heart failure or valve disease. Estimated functional capacity, classified by age and gender, and thallium perfusion defects, expressed as a stress extent thallium score on a 12-segment scale, were analyzed to determine their relative prognostic importance during 2 years of follow-up.

Results: Of 3,400 patients, 108 (3.2%) died during follow-up; 32 deaths were identified as cardiac related. On univariable analysis, estimated functional capacity was a strong predictor of death, with 62 (57%) deaths occurring in patients achieving < 6 metabolic equivalents (METs) (log-rank chi-square 86, p < 0.0001). On multivariable analysis, the strongest independent predictors of all-cause mortality were fair or poor functional capacity (adjusted relative risk [RR] 3.96, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.36 to 6.64, chi-square 27, p < 0.0001) and age (adjusted RR for 10 years 2.25, 95% CI 1.80 to 2.80, chi-square 27, p < 0.0001). The presence of SPECT thallium perfusion defects was a less powerful predictor of death (for each two additional segments with defects, adjusted RR 1.21, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.43, chi-square 5, p = 0.02). Cardiac mortality was predicted by both fair or poor functional capacity (adjusted RR 4.37, 95% CI 1.59 to 12.00, chi-square 8, p = 0.004) and by stress extent thallium score (adjusted RR 1.62, 95% CI 1.25 to 2.11, chi-square 13, p = 0.0003).

Conclusions: In this clinically low risk group, estimated functional capacity was a strong and overwhelmingly important independent predictor of all-cause mortality among patients undergoing exercise Tl-201 SPECT testing. The extent of myocardial perfusion defects was of comparable importance for the prediction of cardiac mortality.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Coronary Disease / diagnosis
  • Coronary Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Disease / physiopathology
  • Exercise Test*
  • Exercise Tolerance*
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / mortality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Thallium Radioisotopes
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon*


  • Thallium Radioisotopes