Right ventricular (RV) functional reserve affects functional capacity and prognosis in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). PAH associated with systemic sclerosis (SSc-PAH) has a substantially worse prognosis than idiopathic PAH (IPAH), even though many measures of resting RV function and pulmonary vascular load are similar. We therefore tested the hypothesis that RV functional reserve is depressed in SSc-PAH patients.Methods and Results—
RV pressure-volume relations were prospectively measured in IPAH (n=9) and SSc-PAH (n=15) patients at rest and during incremental atrial pacing or supine bicycle ergometry. Systolic and lusitropic function increased at faster heart rates in IPAH patients, but were markedly blunted in SSc-PAH. The recirculation fraction, which indexes intracellular calcium recycling, was also depressed in SSc-PAH (0.32±0.05 versus 0.50±0.05; P=0.039). At matched exercise (25 W), SSc-PAH patients did not augment contractility (end-systolic elastance) whereas IPAH did (P<0.001). RV afterload assessed by effective arterial elastance rose similarly in both groups; thus, ventricular-vascular coupling declined in SSc-PAH. Both end-systolic and end-diastolic RV volumes increased in SSc-PAH patients to offset contractile deficits, whereas chamber dilation was absent in IPAH (+37±10% versus +1±8%, P=0.004, and +19±4% versus –1±6%, P<0.001, respectively). Exercise-associated RV dilation also strongly correlated with resting ventricular-vascular coupling in a larger cohort.Conclusions—
RV contractile reserve is depressed in SSc-PAH versus IPAH subjects, associated with reduced calcium recycling. During exercise, this results in ventricular-pulmonary vascular uncoupling and acute RV dilation. RV dilation during exercise can predict adverse ventricular-vascular coupling in PAH patients.