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Background: Slow heart rate recovery (HRR) after exercise is associated with autonomic dysfunction and increased mortality. What HRR criterion at 1-minute after a 6-minute walk test (6MWT) best defines pulmonary impairment?.

Study Design and Methods: A total of 5008 phase 2 COPDGene (NCT00608764) participants with smoking history were included. A total of 2127 had COPD and, of these, 385 were followed-up 5-years later. Lung surgery, transplant, bronchiectasis, atrial fibrillation, heart failure and pacemakers were exclusionary. HR was measured from pulse oximetry at end-walk and after 1-min seated recovery. A receiver operator characteristic (ROC) identified optimal HRR cut-off. Generalized linear regression determined HRR association with spirometry, chest CT, symptoms and exacerbations.

Results: HRR after 6MWT (bt/min) was categorized in quintiles: ≤ 5 (23.0% of participants), 6– 10 (20.7%), 11– 15 (18.9%), 16– 22 (18.5%) and ≥ 23 (18.9%). Compared to HRR≤ 5, HRR≥ 11 was associated with (p< 0.001): lower pre-walk HR and 1-min post HR; greater end-walk HR; greater 6MWD; greater FEV1%pred; lower airway wall area and wall thickness. HRR was positively associated with FEV1%pred and negatively associated with airway wall thickness. An optimal HRR ≤ 10 bt/min yielded an area under the ROC curve of 0.62 (95% CI 0.58– 0.66) for identifying FEV1< 30%pred. HRR≥ 11 bt/min was the lowest HRR associated with consistently less impairment in 6MWT, spirometry and CT variables. In COPD, HRR≤ 10 bt/min was associated with (p< 0.001): ≥ 2 exacerbations in the previous year (OR=1.76[1.33– 2.34]); CAT≥ 10 (OR=1.42[1.18– 1.71]); mMRC≥ 2 (OR=1.42[1.19– 1.69]); GOLD 4 (OR=1.98[1.44– 2.73]) and GOLD D (OR=1.51[1.18– 1.95]). HRR≤ 10 bt/min was predicted COPD exacerbations at 5-year follow-up (RR=1.83[1.07– 3.12], P=0.027).

Conclusion: HRR≤ 10 bt/min after 6MWT in COPD is associated with more severe expiratory flow limitation, airway wall thickening, worse dyspnoea and quality of life, and future exacerbations, suggesting that an abnormal HRR≤ 10 bt/min after a 6MWT may be used in a comprehensive assessment in COPD for risk of severity, symptoms and future exacerbations.

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International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease



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