Right Heart Catheterization During Exercise in Patients with COPD—An Overview of Clinical Results and Methodological Aspects

While right heart catheterization (RHC) at rest is the gold standard to assess pulmonary hemodynamics in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary hypertension (PH), the invasive measurement of exercise hemodynamics is less well established in this group. Since exercise hemodynamics are increasingly recognized as important clinical information in patients with PH, our goal was to review the literature in this field to provide a basis for clinical use, further studies, and future recommendations. We identified 69 studies (published since 1968) reporting RHC data in 2819 patients with COPD, of whom 2561 underwent exercise testing. Few studies simultaneously measured gas exchange during exercise. Overall, these studies showed large variations in the patient populations and research questions studied and the methods and definitions employed. Despite these limitations, the data consistently demonstrated the presence of precapillary PH at rest in up to 38% of patients with COPD. With exercise, a relevant proportion of patients developed an abnormal hemodynamic response, depending on the definition used. Furthermore, some studies assessed right ventricular function during exercise and showed a blunted increase in right ventricular ejection fraction. Drug effects and the impact of interventional procedures were also studied. Again, due to large variations in the patients studied and the methods used, firm conclusions are difficult to derive. Despite the limitations of this dataset, several recommendations with respect to technical aspects (body position, exercise protocol, and data acquisition) can be inferred for this challenging patient population and may be helpful for further studies or recommendations.