Exercise intolerance in heart failure: The important role of pulmonary hypertension

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New Findings: What is the topic of this review? This review concerns the negative impact of pulmonary hypertension (PH) on the pulmonary haemodynamic and gas exchange responses to exercise, considering the mechanisms by which PH plays a role in exercise intolerance in heart failure (HF) patients. What advances does it highlight? The hallmark limited pulmonary vascular ‘reserve’ and impaired pulmonary gas exchange responses to exercise in HF are worsened by the development of PH; these are key determinants of exercise intolerance. Even HF patients who present with ‘normal’ pulmonary vascular function experience exercise-induced PH, which plays a role in exercise intolerance. Abstract: Patients with heart failure universally complain of exertional intolerance, but the underlying cause(s) of this intolerance may differ between patients with different disease phenotypes. Exercise introduces an impressive stress to the lungs, where elevations in venous return and cardiac output engender substantial increases in pulmonary blood volume and flow. Relative to healthy individuals, the pulmonary vascular reserve to accept this increase in pulmonary perfusion is compromised in heart failure, with a growing body of evidence suggesting that the development of pulmonary hypertension (PH), and in particular a precapillary component of PH, worsens the pulmonary haemodynamic response to exercise in these patients. Characterized by an exaggerated increase in pulmonary arterial pressure and an elevation in pulmonary vascular resistance, this dysfunctional pulmonary haemodynamic response plays a role in exercise intolerance, probably through an impairment of right ventricular function, underperfusion of the pulmonary circulation and a subsequent reduction in systemic blood flow and oxygen delivery. The hallmark abnormalities in ventilatory and pulmonary gas exchange that accompany heart failure, including a greater ventilatory equivalent for carbon dioxide, are also worsened by the development of PH. This raises the possibility that measures of exercise pulmonary gas exchange might help to ‘describe’ underlying PH in heart failure; however, several fundamental issues and questions need to be addressed before such gas exchange measures could truly be considered efficacious measures used to differentiate the type of PH and track the severity of PH in heart failure. exercise intolerance, heart failure, pulmonary gas exchange, pulmonary haemodynamics, pulmonary hypertension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1997-2003
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental physiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Physiology (medical)


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