WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. A simple exercise test may help predict mortality risk in patients with heart failure and help doctors to better tailor treatment strategies, according to new research from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
"This may allow doctors to better assess patient risk, and could help them determine the most appropriate plan of care based on the prognosis of the patient," said Dalane Kitzman, M.D., a professor of cardiology and senior researcher on the project.
In the current issue of the Journal of Cardiac Failure, Kitzman and colleagues report on a study involving 147 patients with congestive heart failure, which is the inability of the heart to pump enough blood to keep up with the body's demands. Congestive heart failure affects about 4.8 million Americans, with 550,000 new cases diagnosed each year. The primary symptom is shortness of breath.
The goal of the study was to evaluate a test that measures the lungs' efficiency at consuming oxygen and expiring carbon dioxide. The test has been shown to predict future hospitalizations in patients with systolic heart failure, a type in which the left chamber of the heart is too weakened to pump blood efficiently. The researchers wanted to determine if the test is also appropriate for patients with diastolic heart failure, a more recently recognized form in which the heart muscle is stiff and cannot take in enough blood with each beat.
"Although the prevalence of diastolic heart failure is increasing, we know very little about how to predict which patients are at the highest risk of death," said Kitzman.
Previous studies on predicting mortality have focused on systolic heart failure patients. The current study was the first to compare the pulmonary test in three groups: older adults with diastolic heart failure, older adults with systolic heart failure and healthy volunteers of the same age. The mean age of participants was 70.