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Prognostic value of symptom limited versus low level exercise stress test before discharge in patients with myocardial infarction treated with thrombolytics


OBJECTIVE To evaluate the benefits and risks of symptom limited exercise testing versus low level exercise testing soon after a thrombolytic treated acute myocardial infarction.

DESIGN AND PATIENTS 98 patients (71 men, 27 women), mean (SD) age 64 (9) years (range 45–75 years), were investigated 5–8 days after admittance to hospital. An ergometer cycle test was used, starting at 30 W with 10 W increments per minute. Each exercise test was interpreted at the symptom limited end point and a low level end point, which was defined as the point at which the patient rated exhaustion as 13 on the 6–20 point Borg scale for rating perceived exertion.

SETTING A university hospital.

RESULTS 75 of the 98 patients were able to perform a predischarge exercise test. Of the remaining 23 patients who could not perform an early exercise test (because of unstable angina, heart failure, or thrombus detected at echocardiography), five died or had a myocardial infarction and six underwent bypass surgery or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) during a follow up period of one year. There were no complications related to the symptom limited exercise tests. The test results were positive in 15 patients at the low level end point and in 39 patients (p < 0.001) at the symptom limited end point. During a follow up period of one year, six of the 75 patients died or had a myocardial infarction. Two of these six patients had a positive low level exercise test and four had a positive symptom limited exercise test. Twenty three of the 75 patients who performed an exercise test had a cardiac event within one year (death, myocardial infarction, bypass surgery or PTCA); of these, 19 had a positive symptom limited exercise test and nine had a positive low level exercise test (p = 0.025). Four of the 36 patients with a negative symptom limited test suffered cardiac events within a year (two patients had a myocardial infarction and two had bypass surgery).

CONCLUSION Symptom limited exercise testing soon after thrombolytically treated myocardial infarction will identify more patients with exercise induced ST depression or chest pain than a low level test, and seems safe. A negative symptom limited test has a better negative predictive value (11% risk of an event within a year) than a negative low level (25% risk of an event within a year).

  • exercise stress test
  • myocardial infarction
  • prognosis
  • thrombolysis
  • risk stratification

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