Lung function in relation to exercise capacity in health and disease

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Background: Exercise capacity (EC) is widely recognized as a strong and independent predictor of mortality and disease progression in various diseases, including cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. Furthermore, it is generally accepted that exercise capacity in healthy individuals and in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases is mainly limited by the maximum cardiac output.Objectives: This thesis investigated the impact of different lung function indices on EC in healthy individuals, patients with cardiovascular disease (e.g., pulmonary hypertension (PH)) and patients with pulmonary disease (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)).Methods: The present thesis is based on cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of patients suffering from COPD, attending pulmonary rehabilitation at Uppsala University Hospital (studies I and II), and healthy men enrolled in the “Oslo ischemia study” (study IV). Study III is a cross-sectional study of patients suffering from PH attending the San Giovanni Battista University Hospital in Turin. EC was assessed using a bicycle ergometer in studies I and IV, with 12-minute walk tests (12MWT) in study II and with 6-minute walk tests (6MWT) in study III. Extensive pulmonary function tests, including diffusing capacity of the lung (DLCO), were performed in studies I-III and dynamic spirometry was used to assess lung function in study IV.Results: DLCO is more closely linked to decreased levels of EC than airway obstruction in COPD patients. Furthermore, the decline in 12MWT over a 5-year period was mainly explained by deterioration in DLCO in COPD patients. Spirometric parameters indicating airway obstruction significantly related to EC and exercise-induced desaturation in PH patients. A significant, but weak association between lung function parameters and EC was found in healthy subjects and this association is strengthened with increasing age.Conclusion: DLCO is the strongest predictor of low EC and EC decline in COPD. In PH, airway obstruction is strongly related to reduced 6MWT. Therefore, extensive analysis of lung function, including measurements of diffusing capacity, along with standard assessment of airway obstruction, gives a more comprehensive assessment of the functional exercise capacity in patients suffering from pulmonary hypertension or COPD. Lung function is also significantly linked to EC even in healthy subjects, lacking evident cardiopulmonary diseases.