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Reduced left atrial function on exercise in patients with heart failure and normal ejection fraction
  1. Y T Tan1,
  2. F Wenzelburger1,2,
  3. E Lee2,
  4. P Nightingale3,
  5. G Heatlie2,
  6. F Leyva1,
  7. J E Sanderson1,2
  1. 1Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2University Hospital of North Staffordshire and Keele University, Staffordshire, UK
  3. 3Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to John E Sanderson, Department of Medicine & Therapeutics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, Hong Kong SAR, China; jesanderson{at}


Aims The cardinal symptom of heart failure with a normal ejection fraction (HFNEF) is exertional dyspnoea. The authors hypothesised that failure of left atrial (LA) compensatory mechanism particularly on exercise contributes to the genesis of symptoms in HFNEF patients.

Methods and Results Fifty HFNEF patients, 15 asymptomatic hypertensive subjects and 30 healthy controls underwent rest and submaximal exercise echocardiography. Rest and exercise systolic, early diastolic and late diastolic (Am) mitral annular velocities were assessed using colour tissue Doppler echocardiography. Left atrial functional reserve index was calculated.

Am at rest was comparable between all three groups, but exercise Am was significantly lower in HFNEF compared with hypertensive subjects and healthy controls resulting in a lower LA functional reserve index (0.84 (1.34) vs 2.39 (1.27) and 1.81 (1.39), p<0.001). LA volume index was significantly higher in HFNEF patients (30.4 (9.2) vs 27.9 (6.3) and 23.2 (7.1) ml/m2, p=0.002). There was a significant correlation between Am on exercise with peak VO2 max (r=0.514, p<0.001) and E/Em on exercise (r=−0.547, p<0.001). Area under the receiver operating characteristic for Am on exercise was 0.768 (95% CI=0.660 to 0.877).

Conclusion HFNEF patients have reduced LA function on exercise in addition to left ventricular systolic and diastolic dysfunctions. Reduced LA function probably contributes significantly to exercise intolerance and breathlessness in HFNEF patients.

  • Left atrial function
  • exercise
  • heart failure
  • echocardiography-exercise

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  • Funding British Heart Foundation & North Staffs Heart Committee.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the University Hospital of Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.