Noninvasive Evaluation of Skeletal Muscle Oxidative Metabolism after Heart Transplant

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The main aim of the present study was to investigate skeletal muscle oxidative metabolism in heart transplant recipients (HTR) by noninvasive tools.


Twenty male HTR (age 50.4 ± 2.6 yr; mean ± SE) and 17 healthy untrained age-matched controls (CTRL) performed an incremental exercise (IE) and a series of constant-load (CLE) moderate-intensity exercise tests on a cycloergometer. The following variables were determined: heart rate (HR); breath-by-breath pulmonary O2 uptake (V̇O2); and skeletal muscle (vastus lateralis) oxygenation indices by continuous-wave near-infrared spectroscopy. Changes in concentration of deoxygenated hemoglobin (Hb) and myoglobin (Mb) (Δ[deoxy(Hb + Mb)]), expressed as a fraction of values obtained during a transient limb ischemia, were taken as an index of skeletal muscle O2 extraction. "Peak" values were determined at exhaustion during IE. Kinetics of adjustment of variables were determined during CLE.


V̇O2peak, HRpeak, and Δ[deoxy(Hb + Mb)] peak were significantly lower in HTR than in CTRL (17.1 ± 0.7 vs 34.0 ± 1.9 mL·kg−1·min−1, 133.8 ± 3.8 vs 173.0 ± 4.8 bpm, and 0.42 ± 0.03 vs 0.58 ± 0.04, respectively). In HTR, Δ[deoxy(Hb + Mb)] increase at submaximal workloads was steeper than in CTRL, suggesting an impaired O2 delivery to skeletal muscles, whereas the lower Δ[deoxy(Hb + Mb)] peak values suggest an impaired capacity of O2 extraction at peak exercise. V̇O2 and HR kinetics during CLE were significantly slower in HTR than in CTRL, whereas, unexpectedly, no significant differences were found for Δ[deoxy(Hb+Mb)] kinetics (mean response time: 21.3 ± 1.1 vs 20.2 ± 1.2 s).


The findings confirm the presence of both "central" (cardiovascular) and "peripheral" (at the skeletal muscle level) impairments to oxidative metabolism in HTR. The noninvasiveness of the measurements will allow for serial evaluation of the patients, in the presence and/or absence of rehabilitation programs.

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