Although it is well established that a blunted chronotropic response to exercise is associated with a higher risk of death, recent data suggest a similar association between mortality risk and blunted heart rate response to vasodilatory stress. We investigated the heart rate response to dipyridamole-induced stress as a predictor of death in the setting of normal myocardial perfusion and a normal electrocardiogram. We followed 1,087 patients for 8 years (range 5.7 to 11.8) who underwent dipyridamole vasodilator stress and had normal perfusion scans and electrocardiograms. None had heart failure, known left ventricular systolic dysfunction, pacemaker implantation, or valve disease. Heart rate response was assessed as the ratio of heart rate at peak stress to heart rate at rest. The primary end point was all-cause mortality. Quartile values for the peak-to-rest heart rate ratio were <1.19, 1.19 to 1.30, 1.31 to 1.44, and >1.44. There were 246 deaths. Death rates according to quartiles of heart rate ratio were 103 of 271 (38%), 64 of 272 (24%), 52 of 272 (19%), and 27 of 272 (10%). After adjusting for age, gender, heart rate at rest, blood pressure response, standard cardiovascular risk factors, and other confounders, a blunted heart rate response remained predictive of death (adjusted hazard ratio for lowest vs highest quartile 3.3, 95% confidence interval 2.1 to 5.1, p <0.0001). When considered as a continuous variable, the logarithm of the heart rate ratio was the strongest predictor of death, aside from age. Thus, among patients who have normal myocardial perfusion and normal electrocardiograms, a blunted heart rate response to vasodilator stress is predictive of a marked increase in risk of death.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by Grants R01 HL-66004 and P50 HL77107 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Bethesda, Maryland.