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Clin Res Cardiol. 2013 Jan;102(1):51-61. doi: 10.1007/s00392-012-0495-4. Epub 2012 Aug 9.

Step climbing capacity in patients with pulmonary hypertension.

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Center for Pulmonary Vascular Disease and Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Jewish General Hospital, McGill University, Room E-222, 3755 Cote Sainte Catherine, Montreal, QC, H3T 1E2, Canada.



Patients with pulmonary hypertension (PH) typically have exercise intolerance and limitation in climbing steps.


To explore the exercise physiology of step climbing in PH patients, on a laboratory-based step test.


We built a step oximetry system from an 'aerobics' step equipped with pressure sensors and pulse oximeter linked to a computer. Subjects mounted and dismounted from the step until their maximal exercise capacity or 200 steps was achieved. Step-count, SpO(2) and heart rate were monitored throughout exercise and recovery. We derived indices of exercise performance, desaturation and heart rate. A 6-min walk test and serum NT-proBrain Natriuretic Peptide (BNP) level were measured. Lung function tests and hemodynamic parameters were extracted from the medical record.


Eighty-six subjects [52 pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), 14 chronic thromboembolic PH (CTEPH), 20 controls] were recruited. Exercise performance (climbing time, height gained, velocity, energy expenditure, work-rate and climbing index) on the step test was significantly worse with PH and/or worsening WHO functional class (ANOVA, p < 0.001). There was a good correlation between exercise performance on the step and 6-min walking distance-climb index (r = -0.77, p < 0.0001). The saturation deviation (mean of SpO(2) values <95 %) on the step test correlated with diffusion capacity of the lung (ρ = -0.49, p = 0.001). No correlations were found between the step test indices and other lung function tests, hemodynamic parameters or NT-proBNP levels.


Patients with PAH/CTEPH have significant limitation in step climbing ability that correlates with functional class and 6-min walking distance. This is a significant impediment to their daily activities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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