Aims: The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of a submaximal test with a symptom limited endpoint and to measure the reproducibility of symptoms in patients with CHF.
Methods: Ten patients with chronic heart failure were studied. Based on two maximal treadmill tests an individual protocol using a constant work rate at a submaximal intensity was derived. The projected maximum treadmill time for the constant workrate was between 8 and 17 min. Tests were carried out 1, 2, 4 and 6 weeks after the maximum tests. Every 2.5 min during the submaximal test patients recorded their symptoms of breathlessness and fatigue using computer automated visual analogue (VAS) and Borg CR10 scales. The measure of reproducibility used was the proportion of total variability explained by the between subject variability.
Results: Using the VAS scale, general fatigue was reasonably reproducible ranging from 77-86%. For VAS breathlessness reproducibility ranged from 66% to 83%. Reproducibility for breathlessness and fatigue for the Borg CR10 scale was much lower than the VAS scale. Reproducibility for the treadmill times was 51% but increased to 76% if one test of one subject was excluded.
Conclusions: The use of the VAS during submaximal exercise offers a useful means of evaluating symptoms in CHF and potentially their response to treatment. These findings show that individual submaximal protocols can be easily prescribed for CHF patients. Using such an approach, clinically desirable tests lasting around 12 min can be developed. These tests are reasonably reproducible and may provide a useful means of assessing patient disability and the impact of treatment.