OBJECTIVE--To evaluate the difference in systolic blood pressure at the arm and ankle at rest and after various exercise tests for the assessment of aortic coarctation. METHODS--22 patients (mean age 33 years, range 17-66) were investigated on the suspicion of having haemodynamically significant aortic coarctation. Eight had undergone previous coarctation surgery, of whom five had received vascular grafts and three end to end anastomoses. The patients exercised submaximally while supine, seated on a bicycle, and walking on a treadmill, as well as exercising maximally on a treadmill. Arm and ankle blood pressure were measured with a cuff at rest and 1-10 minutes after exercise. Invasive pressures and cardiac output by thermodilution were recorded during catheterisation while patients were at rest and during and after supine bicycle exercise. The degree of constriction was assessed by angiography. Twelve healthy volunteers (mean age 32 years, range 17-56) provided reference values for cuff pressures after exercise. RESULTS--All patients with a difference in cuff pressure at rest of 35 mm Hg or more had a difference in invasive pressure of 35 mm Hg or more. Increasing severity of constriction on angiography correlated with larger pressure gradients at rest and during exercise (P < 0.0001). When cuff measurements after exercise were considered singly or combined to form a predictor they did not improve the prediction of the invasive pressure gradients at rest or after maximal exercise. A pressure gradient between arm and ankle also developed in normal subjects after maximal but not after submaximal exercise. CONCLUSION--In most patients with suspected haemodynamically significant coarctation the difference in cuff pressure between arm and ankle at rest is sufficient to select patients in need of further evaluation. If exercise is performed submaximal exercise is preferable.
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