Penn researchers question change in 'gold standard' for assessing heart failure treatment

(Philadelphia, PA) - Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine -- in the largest study to date of female heart failure patients who underwent a specialized stress test called oxygen uptake or VO2 -- concluded that women tend to have lower maximum exercise VO2 levels than men, yet their survival is significantly better than men. The results suggest that instead of one standard cut-off level in VO2 test results for both men and women, perhaps there should be a lower cut-off level for women. This would allow physicians to avoid more advanced therapies in some female heart failure patients. The study results are published in the June 6th issue of the "Journal of the American College of Cardiology."

"Heart Failure Cardiologists utilize this special kind of exercise test, which examines your body's ability to utilize oxygen during maximal exercise, to determine a course of treatment for our patients. Up until now, there has been one absolute cut-off level, based on VO2 stress test results, for both men and women. It's been the 'gold standard' for us to decide the risk of proceeding with a treatment like transplant, ventricular assist devices or other therapies," said Mariell Jessup, MD, Medical Director of the Heart Failure and Transplant program and Professor of Medicine at Penn.

The VO2 is an exercise test in which a patient walks on a treadmill. The patient is outfitted with a mouthpiece that measures the amount of oxygen the body is using during exercise. It can determine how well the heart muscle is delivering oxygen to the muscles of the body in order to do work. If the heart muscle is weak, and the body tries to exercise, the heart may not be able to keep up with the stressful demand and deliver enough oxygen rich blood to muscles. The test measures a patient's ability to function (their functional capacity to live and work).

Based on the prognosis, it helps to guide cardiologists in deciding which advanced treatments

Contact: Susanne Hartman
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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