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Dis Mon. 1988 Nov;34(11):677-735.

The prognostic value of the exercise test.

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  • 1University of California, Irvine.


Numerous investigators have demonstrated that responses to exercise testing enable prediction of the severity of underlying coronary disease and the patient's prognosis. However, exercise testing cannot predict angiographic findings or a poor prognosis with absolute certainty. Because survival can only be improved in specific clinical subsets of patients, it is important to carefully select for catheterization those in whom intervention can improve both quality and quantity of life. To deliver cost-effective health care, an effort has been made to use decision analysis to select those who should undergo cardiac catheterization. Decision analysis depends on reliable information regarding the predictive accuracy of the exercise test. Thus, this review is timely. Recent studies investigating the prognostic value of the exercise test are reviewed in this monograph. Patients include those recovering from a recent myocardial infarction (MI), those with stable coronary heart disease (including studies that have considered coronary angiographic findings, cardiac end points, and/or improved survival with coronary artery bypass surgery), and apparently healthy individuals. From this review, we conclude that silent ischemia induced by exercise testing in apparently healthy men is not as predictive of a poor outcome as once thought. Also, the use of the exercise test for screening is even more misleading than previously appreciated because of the higher rate of false positive results. Review of the 24 available studies of exercise testing in post-MI patients demonstrates that clinical judgment can be used to identify the high-risk patients, and that ST-segment shifts are not as predictive of high risk as an abnormal systolic blood pressure response or a poor exercise capacity. In patients with stable coronary heart disease, studies considering angiographic findings, cardiac events, and the differential outcome of coronary artery bypass surgery as compared with medical therapy have shown the exercise test to have prognostic power. From this perspective, it is obvious that there is much information supporting the use of exercise testing as the first noninvasive step after the history, physical examination, and resting electrocardiogram in the prognostic evaluation of patients with coronary artery disease. It accomplishes both purposes of prognostic testing: to provide information regarding the patient's status, and to help make recommendations for optimal management. The exercise test results help us make reasonable decisions for selection of patients who should undergo coronary angiography-including quality-of-life issues.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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