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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 7

Autonomic dysfunction predicts poor physical improvement after cardiac rehabilitation in patients with heart failure

1 Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation, Institute Codivilla-Putti, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
2 Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation, Institute Codivilla-Putti, Cortina d'Ampezzo; Department of Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular Sciences, University of Padua, Padua, Italy
3 Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, School of Emergency Medicine, University of Padua, Padua, Italy

Correspondence Address:
Leonida Compostella
Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation, Institute Codivilla-Putti, Cortina d'Ampezzo
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.5812/cardiovascmed.25237

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Background: Cardiac autonomic dysfunction, clinically expressed by reduced heart rate variability (HRV), is present in patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) and is related to the degree of left ventricular dysfunction. In athletes, HRV is an indicator of ability to improve performance. No similar data are available for CHF. Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess whether HRV could predict the capability of CHF patients to improve physical fitness after a short period of exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation (CR). Patients and Methods: This was an observational, non-randomized study, conducted on 57 patients with advanced CHF, admitted to a residential cardiac rehabilitation unit 32 ± 22 days after an episode of acute heart failure. Inclusion criteria were sinus rhythm, stable clinical conditions, no diabetes and ejection fraction = 35%. HRV (time-domain) and mean and minimum heart rate (HR) were evaluated using 24-h Holter at admission. Patients' physical fitness was evaluated at admission by 6-minute walking test (6MWT) and reassessed after two weeks of intensive exercise-based CR. Exercise capacity was evaluated by a symptom-limited cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET). Results: Patients with very depressed HRV (SDNN 55.8 ± 10.0 ms) had no improvement in their walking capacity after short CR, walked shorter absolute distances at final 6MWT (348 ± 118 vs. 470 ± 109 m; P = 0.027) and developed a peak-VO2 at CPET significantly lower than patients with greater HRV parameters (11.4 ± 3.7 vs. an average > 16 ± 4 mL/kg/min). Minimum HR, but not mean HR, showed a negative correlation (ρ = -0.319) with CPET performance. Conclusions: In patients with advanced CHF, depressed HRV and higher minimum HR were predictors of poor working capacity after a short period of exercise-based CR. An individualized and intensive rehabilitative intervention should be considered for these patients.

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