Journal of Applied Physiology vol:109 issue:5 pages:1307-1317
Pulmonary transit of agitated contrast (PTAC) occurs to variable extents during exercise. We tested the hypothesis that the onset of PTAC signifies flow through larger-caliber vessels, resulting in improved pulmonary vascular reserve during exercise. Forty athletes and fifteen nonathletes performed maximal exercise with continuous echocardiographic Doppler measures [cardiac output (CO), pulmonary artery systolic pressure (PASP), and myocardial velocities] and invasive blood pressure (BP). Arterial gases and B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) were measured at baseline and peak exercise. Pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR) was determined as the regression of PASP/CO and was compared according to athletic and PTAC status. At peak exercise, athletes had greater CO (16.0 ± 2.9 vs. 12.4 ± 3.2 l/min, P < 0.001) and higher PASP (60.8 ± 12.6 vs. 47.0 ± 6.5 mmHg, P < 0.001), but PVR was similar to nonathletes (P = 0.71). High PTAC (defined by contrast filling of the left ventricle) occurred in a similar proportion of athletes and nonathletes (18/40 vs. 10/15, P = 0.35) and was associated with higher peak-exercise CO (16.1 ± 3.4 vs. 13.9 ± 2.9 l/min, P = 0.010), lower PASP (52.3 ± 9.8 vs. 62.6 ± 13.7 mmHg, P = 0.003), and 37% lower PVR (P < 0.0001) relative to low PTAC. Right ventricular (RV) myocardial velocities increased more and BNP increased less in high vs. low PTAC subjects. On multivariate analysis, maximal oxygen consumption (VO(2max)) (P = 0.009) and maximal exercise output (P = 0.049) were greater in high PTAC subjects. An exercise-induced decrease in arterial oxygen saturation (98.0 ± 0.4 vs. 96.7 ± 1.4%, P < 0.0001) was not influenced by PTAC status (P = 0.96). Increased PTAC during exercise is a marker of pulmonary vascular reserve reflected by greater flow, reduced PVR, and enhanced RV function.