Objectives: This study sought to examine the outcome of a large group of patients after normal exercise echocardiography and to identify potential predictors of subsequent cardiac events.
Background: Earlier studies suggested that prognosis after normal exercise echocardiography is favorable, with a low subsequent cardiac event rate. These studies involved a small number of patients and did not have sufficient statistical power to stratify risk.
Methods: The outcomes of 1,325 patients who had normal exercise echocardiograms were examined. End points were overall and cardiac event-free survival. Cardiac events were defined as cardiac death, nonfatal myocardial infarction and coronary revascularization. Patient characteristics were analyzed in relation to time to first cardiac event in a univariate and multivariate manner to determine which, if any, were associated with an increased hazard of subsequent cardiac events.
Results: Overall survival of the study group was significantly better than that of an age- and gender-matched group obtained from life tables (p < 0.0001). The cardiac event-free survival rates at 1, 2 and 3 years were 99.2%, 97.8% and 97.4%, respectively. The cardiac event rate per person-year of follow-up was 0.9%. Subgroups with an intermediate or high pretest probability of having coronary artery disease also had low cardiac event rates. Multivariate predictors of subsequent cardiac events were angina during treadmill exercise testing (risk ratio [RR] 4.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.5 to 11.0), low work load (defined as < 7 metabolic equivalents [METs] for men and < 5 METs for women; RR 3.2, 95% CI 1.4 to 7.6), echocardiographic left ventricular hypertrophy (RR 2.6, 95% CI 1.1 to 6.3) and advancing age (RR 1.04/year, 95% CI 1.0 to 1.1).
Conclusions: The outcome after normal exercise echocardiography is excellent. Subgroups with an intermediate or high pretest probability of having coronary artery disease also have a favorable prognosis after a normal exercise echocardiogram. Characteristics predictive of subsequent cardiac events (i.e., patient age, work load, angina during exercise testing and echocardiographic left ventricular hypertrophy) should be considered in the clinical interpretation of a normal exercise echocardiogram.