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Exploring the determinants of the cardiac changes after ultra-long duration exercise: The echocardiographic Spartathlon study

Georgios A Christou, Efstathios D Pagourelias, Maria A Anifanti, Panagiota G Sotiriou, Nikolaos A Koutlianos, Maria P Tsironi, Panagiotis I Andriopoulos, Konstantinos A Christou, Evangelia J Kouidi, Asterios P Deligiannis

The investigation of the pathophysiological determinants of cardiac changes following ultra-long duration exercise.

Twenty-seven runners who finished a 246 km running race were examined both before and after the finish of the race. Examinations included echocardiography and measurement of body weight and blood biochemical parameters.

Exercise increased left ventricular end-diastolic interventricular septum thickness (LVIVSd) (p < 0.001) and posterior wall thickness (LVPWTd) (p = 0.001) and right ventricular end-diastolic area (p = 0.005), while reduced tricuspid annular plane systolic excursion (TAPSE) (p = 0.004). A minor decrease in the peak absolute values of both left ventricular (from −20.9 ± 2.3% to −18.8 ± 2.0%, p = 0.009) and right ventricular (from −22.9 ± 3.6% to −21.2 ± 3.0%, p = 0.040) global longitudinal strains occurred. There was decrease in body weight (p < 0.001) and increase in both circulating high-sensitivity troponin I (p = 0.028) and amino-terminal pro-B type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) (p = 0.018). The change in the sum of LVIVSd and LVPWTd correlated negatively with percentage change of body weight (r = −0.416, p = 0.049). The only independent determinant of post-exercise NT-proBNP was pulmonary artery systolic pressure (r = 0.797, p = 0.002). Post-exercise NT-proBNP correlated positively with percentage changes of basal (RVbas) (r = 0.582, p = 0.037) and mid-cavity (RVmid) (r = 0.618, p = 0.043) right ventricular diameters and negatively with percentage change of TAPSE (r = −0.720, p = 0.008). Similar correlations with RVbas, RVmid and TAPSE were found for pulmonary artery systolic pressure. Post-exercise high-sensitivity troponin I correlated negatively with percentage change of body weight (r = −0.601, p = 0.039), but was not associated with any cardiac parameter.

The main cardiac effects of ultra-long duration exercise were the decrease in left ventricular end-diastolic dimensions and increase in left ventricular wall thickness, as well as minimal dilatation and alteration in systolic function of right ventricle, possibly due to the altered exercise-related right ventricular afterload.