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Chest. 1989 Dec;96(6):1312-6.

Can maximal cardiopulmonary capacity be recognized by a plateau in oxygen uptake?

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Cardiology Department, Long Beach VA Medical Center, Calif. 90822.


The failure of oxygen uptake to increase with increasing work has been considered a marker of the limits of the cardiopulmonary system for many years. However, the concept has suffered from inconsistencies in definition, criteria, and data sampling, all of which affect the interpretation of the relation between changes in work and oxygen uptake. To evaluate the response and reproducibility of the slope in oxygen uptake at peak exercise, six subjects (mean age, 33 +/- 6 years) performed two individualized ramp treadmill tests on separate days. During exercise, oxygen uptake (for a given sample of 30 eight-breath running averages) was regressed with time and the slope was calculated. Maximal oxygen uptake, maximal heart rate and maximal perceived exertion were reproducible from day 1 to day 2 (mean difference, 0.4 ml/kg/min, 1.0 beats per minute, and 0.2 for maximal oxygen uptake, heart rate, and maximal perceived exertion, respectively [not significant]). Considerable variability in the slopes was observed during each test and from day to day. This occurred despite the use of large gas exchange samples, averaging techniques, and constant, consistent changes in external work. A plateau, defined as the slope of an oxygen uptake sample at peak exercise that did not differ significantly from a slope of zero, was not a consistent finding within subjects between days. We conclude that marked variability in the slope of the change in oxygen uptake occurs throughout progressive exercise, despite the use of large samples and a linear change in external work. These findings appear to preclude the determination of a plateau by common definitions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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