Left ventricular performance was assessed in 20 symptom free patients and 10 with symptoms, all with isolated aortic regurgitation, by measuring the echocardiographic peak velocity of circumferential fibre shortening (echo peak Vcf) at rest and during graded bicycle ergometer exercise in the supine position. The normal left ventricular response during such exercise was first determined in 20 healthy controls. On the basis of their resting and exercise echo peak Vcf, the 30 patients with aortic regurgitation could be separated into three groups: Group 1 comprised 11 symptom free patients with a normal resting echo peak Vcf which increased normally with exercise; group 2 comprised nine symptom free patients with a normal resting echo peak Vcf but with a subnormal response to exercise; group 3 consisted of 10 patients with symptoms with a depressed resting echo peak Vcf which remained subnormal with exercise. Subsequent cardiac catheterisation disclosed normal ejection fractions in patients in group 1, borderline ejection fractions in those in group 2, and reduced ejection fractions in those in group 3. Echocardiographic assessment of left ventricular performance during supine isotonic exercise may provide a simple noninvasive method for the early detection of left ventricular dysfunction in symptom free patients with aortic regurgitation.
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