Background Whole-body water immersion leads to a significant shift of blood from the periphery into the intra-thoracic circulation, followed by an increase in central venous pressure and heart volume. In patients with severely reduced left ventricular function, this hydrostatically in-duced volume shift might overstrain the cardiovascular adaptive mechanisms and lead to cardiac decompensation. The aim of this study is to assess the hemodynamic response to water immer-sion, gymnastics and swimming in patients with heart failure (CHF). Methods We examined 10 patients with compensated CHF (62.9 ± 6.3 years, EF 31.5 ± 4.1%, peak VO2 19.4 ± 2.8 ml/kg/min.), 10 patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) but preserved left ventricular function (57.2 ± 5.6 years, EF 63.9 ± 5.5%, peak VO2 28.0 ± 6.3 ml/kg/min.) and 10 healthy subjects (32.8 ± 7.2 years, peak VO2 45.6 ± 6.0 ml/kg/min.). Hemodynamic response to thermo-neutral (32 degrees C) water immersion and exercise was measured using a non-invasive foreign gas rebreathing method during stepwise water immersion, water gymnastics and swimming. Results Water immersion up to the chest increased cardiac index by 19% in healthy subjects, by 21% in CAD patients and 16% in CHF patients. While some CHF patients showed a decrease of stroke volume during immersion, all subjects were able to increase cardiac index (by 87% in healthy subjects, 77% in CAD patients and 53% in CHF patients). Oxygen uptake during swim-ming was 9.7 ± 3.3 ml/kg/min. in CHF patients, 12.4 ± 3.5 ml/kg/min. in CAD patients and 13.9 ± 4.0 ml/kg/min. in healthy subjects. Conclusions Patients with severely reduced left ventricular function but stable clinical conditions and a minimal peak VO2 of at least 15 ml/kg/min. during a symptom-limited exercise stress test tolerate water immersion and swimming in thermo-neutral water well. Although cardiac in-dex and oxygen uptake are lower compared with CAD patients with preserved left ventricular function and healthy controls, these patients are able to increase cardiac index adequately during water immersion and swimming.
- Heart failure
- Non-invasive cardiac output measurement
- Water immersion
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