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Bioimpedance-derived differences in cardiac physiology during exercise stress testing in low-risk chest pain patients.

Background: Little has been written about the utility of thoracic electrical bioimpedance (TEB)-derived cardiac physiologic variables in evaluating patients with low-risk chest pain syndromes. Noninvasive bioimpedance can monitor cardiac physiology while a patient is performing an exercise stress test. In addition, the demographics of patients with chest pain, the incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD), and the methods used for evaluation have well-documented sex differences.

Objective: The objectives are to show that there are different cardiac physiologic responses to exercise stress test in Chest Pain Evaluation Unit patients with and without true CAD that could be used to stratify patients and that there is a sex difference in TEB results.

Methods: Patients 18 to 65 years of age with low-risk chest pain were eligible. Patients were attached to the TEB throughout the exercise stress test procedure. Heart rate (HR) was monitored. Primary dependent variables were TEB-measured cardiac output (CO, L/min) and stroke volume (SV, ml) at peak exercise. Secondary variables were TEB-measured ejection fraction (%), end-diastolic volume (EDV, ml), ventricular ejection time (ms), and thoracic fluid index ([OMEGA]) at peak exercise. Outcome variables were either proved CAD or patient sex. CAD was proved by angiography, stress scintigraphy, or stress echocardiogram. Results were compared using a Student's t test assuming equal variances, with significance considered at a P < 0.05, and 95% confidence intervals were calculated for significant results.

Results: Nine patients had proved CAD, 82 patients did not. Forty-three women and 48 men were included in the study. At peak exercise, patients with CAD had a significantly smaller increase in EDV than patients without CAD (32.8 [+ or -] 59.5 ml versus 89.3 [+ or -] 101.8 ml) without a significant change in CO, SV, or HR. At peak exercise, women had a significantly smaller increase in CO and SV without a significant change in HR. In addition, women had a significantly smaller increase in EDV.

Conclusion: When compared with patients without CAD, patients with CAD have a significantly smaller increase in EDV and a trend toward the same effect in CO and SV. Women have significantly smaller increases CO, SV, and EDV compared with men. Because there were no differences in HR, using HR as the sole end point would miss these differences. TEB is a practical means of measuring these variables.

Key Words: cardiac output, cardiography, impedance, monitoring


Cardiac output (CO) measurement by thermodilution and dye-dilution is invasive, carries the potential for significant complications, and is not practical in the outpatient setting. In contrast, thoracic electrical bioimpedance (TEB) is simple, noninvasive, and without risk to the patient. Because it uses a hands-off approach, it has better intermeasurement and interobserver reliability than thermodilution. (1) As the reliability and validity become better defined, TEB is finding an expanded role in many areas of medicine. Among its uses are defining changes in seriously ill patients, (2-10) monitoring pregnancy, (11-18) evaluating the effects of environmental stressors on healthy individuals, (19-25) and assessing drug effects. (26), (27)

Sex-related differences in chest pain management have been well documented. Not only is there a documented sex difference in demographics of chest pain, but there is also a documented sex difference in chest pain detection and evaluation. This difference has led to underdiagnosis of heart disease in women when signs and symptoms alone are considered. The addition of cardiac physiologic information could increase the yield of true-positive stress test results in female patients. (28-38) There is a need to better identify women at high cardiac risk. (36)

The use of TEB in outpatients has only been evaluated in a few studies, (39-44) despite the fact that this would be an excellent modality for use in these environments. There is usually insufficient time to initiate invasive monitoring in outpatient cases, nurses often are not trained in the technique, and the equipment is not readily available. There is a strong body of literature emerging, which indicates that TEB may be an effective method of tracking cardiac physiologic changes during exercise testing.

The ability to recognize low-risk patients with chest pain has led to alternatives to conventional coronary care for this group, including reduced time in coronary care units, direct admission to a step-down unit, and management in short-stay observation units. We presently use a Chest Pain Evaluation Unit (CPEU) composed of a specialized physician-staffed unit, which provides care to patients with chest pain, whose electrocardiograms (ECGs) and initial cardiac injury markers are not diagnostic for ischemia. Our previous study demonstrated that nearly 90% of patients initially identified as low risk by clinical assessment can be safely discharged from the emergency department on the basis of the results of the exercise test. (45), (46)

In this study we evaluate chest pain patients who are at low risk for acute coronary syndromes. We searched for ischemia-and sex-related differences in TEB-obtained cardiac physiologic variables. The hypotheses for this study are the following: 1) There are different cardiac physiologic responses to exercise stress testing (EST) in CPEU patients with and without true coronary artery disease (CAD) that could be used to stratify patients, and 2) there are sex-related differences in cardiac physiologic responses to EST.


A convenience sample of patients 18 to 65 years of age undergoing EST was included. For the evaluation of chest pain patients we used our previously described eligibility criteria and exercise treadmill testing protocol. (45), (47) Patients underwent EST according to a Bruce or modified Bruce protocol depending on physician discretion. We enrolled these patients during a 6-month period. Patients were simultaneously attached to the TEB monitor while being connected to the exercise ECG monitor. TEB monitoring did not preclude or interfere with the standard exercise ECG monitoring. Patients were included if data were obtained by TEB. Patients were excluded if they were unwilling or unable to consent, or if they were [beta]-blocked. End point measurements for EST were 85% maximum predicted heart rate (HR) or symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest pain. The study was approved by the institutional review board to conform to standard practice for research in humans. Written informed consent was obtained from all participants.

The primary dependent variables were TEB-derived CO and stroke volume (SV) at rest and the change in variables between rest and peak exercise. Secondary variables were thoracic fluid index, ventricular ejection time, ejection fraction (EF), and end-diastolic volume (EDV) as determined by TEB during EST. We monitored HR because this was used for end point decisions in EST testing. In addition we calculated cardiac index as CO divided by weight, and systemic vascular resistance with the formula CO times 80 divided by mean arterial pressure.

The outcome variable was a true-positive CAD on the basis of one of the following; 1) coronary angiography (positive is a >50% reduction in coronary artery lumen diameter), 2) myocardial stress (exercise or pharmacologic) scintigraphy by single-photon emission computed tomography (positive is stress-induced perfusion defect), or 3) stress (dobutamine or exercise) echocardiography (positive is stress-induced segmental wall motion abnormality).

Two subgroup analyses were also performed. A first subgroup analysis was performed looking for sex-related differences. A second subgroup analysis looked at only nonnegative EST using a decision tree analysis to determine cutoff points that could be used to stratify patients.

The NCCOM3-R7 (Bomed Corp., Irving, CA) monitor was used to obtain the impedance data. The electrodes are applied on the lateral neck and flank bilaterally. Two leads generate a low electrical field across the thorax using 2.5 mA alternating current at 70 KHz while the other two sensing leads measure changes in voltage. These sensing electrodes reflect changes in impedance and also function as ECG leads to enable the machine to monitor HR (needed to express the SV as CO).

Sex, body weight (kg), and height (cm) are entered into the TEB monitor. Derived cardiac variables are then displayed on the monitor. These include SV, CO, HR, EF, left ventricular ejection fraction, and EDV. Data were collected with the monitor in slow mode, during which the device provides an average result for the six variables on 16 consecutive accepted beats.

An a priori power calculation showed that 15 patients per group were needed to show a difference of 50% in primary physiologic variables with a power of 80%. Results were downloaded from the TEB monitor into a palmtop computer, transferred into an Excel database (Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA), and analyzed with the use of the SPSS 9.0 statistical software package (SPSS, Inc., Chicago, IL). A P < 0.05 was considered significant, and 95% confidence intervals were calculated on all significant differences. Answer Tree software (SPSS, Inc.) was used to create a decision tree based on the data.


One hundred twenty-eight patients were tested. Data were obtainable in 94 of these patients. Thirty-four had the device applied but did not produce acceptable readings. No patients with initial TEB readings needed to be excluded later because of motion artifact. Three patients were excluded because of their use of [beta]-blockers, leaving 91 people who were entered in the study.

Normal values, baseline values, and increases from baseline are outlined in Table 1. Twenty-one patients had non-negative EST results. Nine patients (10%) had proved CAD and nonnegative EST results. Forty-three women and 48 men were entered in the study. At peak exercise the CAD-positive patients had no significant changes over baseline for the primary variables CO and SV, although there was a trend toward a smaller increase in those variables. Among the secondary variables, CAD-positive patients had a significantly smaller increase in EDV. These results are summarized in Table 2.

Figure 1 shows the results of the decision tree analysis on the data for patients with nonnegative EST, indicating that either CO or EDV could effectively stratify all but one of the CAD-positive patients. At peak exercise, women had significantly smaller increases in CO and SV. Among the secondary variables, women had significantly smaller increases in EDV and cardiac index. They also had a significantly smaller decrease in systemic vascular resistance. These results are also summarized in Table 2. No significant results were found when both sex and pressure of CAD were taken into account. Figure 1 illustrates a decision tree analysis of the data using an increase in CO of less than 12.0 L/min or an increase in EDV of less than 55 ml as the decision variables. As can be seen, the negative group contained 1 (11%) of 9 positives while the positive group was 8 (67%) of 12 positives. The positive predictive value and sensitivity of this rule is 89% (8 of 9; Fig. 1). Figure 2 illustrates a typical curve of CO and HR as collected over time from the TEB monitor during an EST. The x axis represents time, and the y axis represents the measured HR or CO, respectively.


The first important finding in this study was that reproducible TEB results were obtained despite the motion artifact that occurred during an EST. In fact, there was little effect of motion on the results. Significant, important differences were observed between both the CAD and the sex subgroups. Between the CAD-positive and CAD-negative patients, only the change in EDV was significantly different. However, between men and women there were more significant differences, including the primary variables (CO and SV), one of the secondary variables (EDV), and the calculated variables (systemic vascular resistance and cardiac index). Of note, there were no significant differences in either subgroup in the change in HR, which is in agreement with the fact that the HR was used (as was expected) as the primary end point for the

Key Points

* When patients with known coronary artery disease are compared with those without disease, exercise stress testing increases all variables to the same degree at peak exercise except end-diastolic volume.

* When women are compared with men, the increase in heart rate at peak exercise is the same.

* Women have significantly smaller increases in cardiac output and stroke volume at peak exercise.

* Heart rate may lead to unequal end points in women and men during exercise stress testing and may therefore lead to incorrect conclusions. EST. EDV proved to be one of the best variables (followed closely by CO) for differentiating these groups as shown in the decision tree analysis. The fact that there was a significant sex difference in changes in CO suggests that HR may not be the best end point to use for an EST. The increase in CO during the EST in men was almost twice that seen in women and may account for the lower published rates of positive testing in women when HR is used as the end point.

Sex-related differences in the management of patients with chest pain have been well documented. Not only is there a clear sex difference in the demographics of these patients, but also there is a sex-related difference in the sensitivity and specificity of the diagnostic tests used in their evaluation. This difference has led to underdiagnosis of heart disease in women when signs and symptoms alone are considered. An unacceptably high rate of false positives occurs if only the results of EST are used. The addition of cardiac physiologic information could increase the positive predictive value of the test, particularly in female patients. (28-38)


No previous study has attempted to stratify TEB results by sex. Previous studies have looked at the use of TEB during exercise in normal volunteers and in patients with ischemic heart disease. (48), (49) Measurements were made by TEB during exercise (21), (48-57) and during postural stress. (24), (25), (58) When these studies compared the TEB results with those of other standard measurements, there were high correlation coefficients (for CO, r = 0.96 and 0.90, respectively). The conclusion is that the value of TEB was in evaluating trends in results, and changes with exercise or position rather than the absolute values of cardiac variables. Although CO, thoracic fluid index, and ventricular ejection time have all been suggested in the past as correlating with true ischemic heart disease, no previous study has evaluated the role of these markers in a prospective manner.


Our chest pain service evaluates 1,100 people per year, of which half qualify for EST. The positive stress test rate of this population is 15%; however, false-positives account for half of these, which can lead to additional testing and higher costs. (47) The addition of TEB may result in better recognition of true-positive ESTs and lead to a decrease in cost and fewer follow-up tests. (45) This is the first report looking at the use of this modality in emergency department patients.

We were able to show that TEB is a good noninvasive method of monitoring cardiac physiologic variables. There are numerous reasons a good noninvasive tool for the measurement of CO is desirable for use with chest pain patients undergoing EST. It provides moment-to-moment physiologic information about the patient and clarifies patient status changes that may not be apparent using other monitoring techniques. CO measurement by thermodilution or dye dilution is not practical in this setting. (55), (56) Also, because TEB uses a hands-off approach, it has better intermeasurement and interobserver reliability than the invasive monitoring techniques. The ability to further stratify the nonnegative EST results was of particular importance to us in the practical management of these patients. Because false-negative results are so rare, only the nonnegative results need to be stratified. As can be seen from our results, there were small differences between the groups. When dichotomous statistical methods were used, it was possible to separate the two groups to a reasonable extent on the basis of CO alone. This method needs to be applied in the context of a much larger test group.

Previous studies have suggested that TEB monitoring was useful in quantifying changes in cardiac variables during early treatment of congestive heart failure, trauma, and neurologic problems. (39), (40), (43), (59), (60) We think that the addition of TEB monitoring may help clarify the results of routine exercise electrocardiography and direct the clinician in the management of patients with chest pain suggestive of myocardial ischemia.

Limitations of the Study and Future Research Directions

This study has limitations. First, the patients were entered as a convenience sampling. This may have led to a selection bias on the basis of times of the day that the investigator was available. Thirty-four patients had no data recorded. Some reasons were because the body habitus prevented proper application of the leads, the process of applying electrodes interfered with standard patient care, or the monitor did not record any data. This suggests that approximately 27% of patients will not produce adequate data for TEB analysis. We found, however, that many of the patients with large body habitus were able to have the pads applied and had appropriate information recorded. We could not predict ahead of time which patients would or would not be candidates for monitoring.

The monitor that we used was an older model. The NCCOM-R7 has been under continuous improvement and is presently available under a different name from a different company. The newer machines use algorithms that are reported by the companies as more accurate although there is no present literature to support this claim. Use of this machine, however, demonstrates its usefulness in this setting. This is not an outcome study. We were able to determine that all patients survived at 3 months; however, future studies need to focus not only on this sex difference but also on the sex differences among patients with positive stress test results.

Future direction for the use of TEB in a research capacity would be to evaluate EST results in light of long-term follow-up information regarding morbidity and mortality in patients with an initial presentation of chest pain. It would also be of value in double-blind evaluations of early management approaches to other medical and surgical patients.

God has not called me to be successful; God has called me to be faithful.

-Mother Teresa
Table 1. Results at baseline and increases over baseline for all
variables measured (a)

 Normal mean
 baseline values

Primary outcome variables

 CO (L/min) 6.0 [+ or -] 2.0
 SV (ml/min) 80 [+ or -] 16

Secondary outcome variables

 EDV (ml) 120 [+ or -] 50
 EF (%) 45 [+ or -] 10
 TFI (Ohms) 29 [+ or -] 9

Information for calculated variables

 MAP (mm Hg) 90 [+ or -] 20
 HR (beats/min) 80 [+ or -] 20

Calculated variables

 SVR (dynes*sec/c[m.sup.3]) 1,600 [+ or -] 400
 CI (L/min/kg) 95 [+ or -] 19

 Mean baseline

Primary outcome variables

 CO (L/min) 6.6 [+ or -] 2.2
 SV (ml/min) 80.0 [+ or -] 25.4

Secondary outcome variables
 EDV (ml) 159.4 [+ or -] 56.2
 EF (%) 50.2 [+ or -] 7.4
 TFI (Ohms) 35.2 [+ or -] 6.7

Information for calculated variables

 MAP (mm Hg) 95.9 [+ or -] 2.4
 HR (beats/min) 79.7 [+ or -] 2.9

Calculated variables

 SVR (dynes*sec/c[m.sup.3]) 1,257.6 [+ or -] 370.6
 CI (L/min/kg) 81.9 [+ or -] 28.7

 Increase over baseline
 at peak exercise (%)

Primary outcome variables

 CO (L/min) 12.7 [+ or -] 9.4
 SV (ml/min) 56.7 [+ or -] 50.1

Secondary outcome variables

 EDV (ml) 83.7 [+ or -] 99.7
 EF (%) 7.6 [+ or -] 9.0
 TFI (Ohms) -0.4 [+ or -] 2.1

Information for calculated variables

 MAP (mm Hg) 10.7 [+ or -] 13.4
 HR (beats/min) 60.4 [+ or -] 21.3

Calculated variables

 SVR (dynes*sec/c[m.sup.3]) -686.9 [+ or -] 372.2
 CI (L/min/kg) 153.0 [+ or -] 102.1

(a) CO, cardiac output; SV, stroke volume; EDV, end-diastolic volume;
EF, ejection fraction; TFI, thoracic fluid index; MAP, mean arterial
pressure; HR, heart rate; SVR, systemic vascular resistance; CI,
cardiac index.

Table 2. Increases over baseline for subgroup analysis of confirmed
coronary artery disease-positive versus coronary artery
disease-negative patients and females versus males (a)

 (n = 82)

Primary outcome variables

 CO 13.1 [+ or -] 9.4

 SV 59.3 [+ or -] 50.3

Secondary outcome variables

 EDV 89.3 [+ or -] 101.8

 EF 7.6 [+ or -] 9.2

 TFI -0.4 [+ or -] 2.2

Information for calculated variables

 MAP 10.9 [+ or -] 13.8

 HR 60.0 [+ or -] 21.5

Calculated variables

 SVR -709.4 [+ or -] 335.0

 Cardiac index 158.3 [+ or -] 103.0

 CAD-positive P difference
 (n = 9) (95% CI)

Primary outcome variables

 CO 9.1 [+ or -] 9.3 0.26

 SV 33.3 [+ or -] 44.6 0.13

Secondary outcome variables

 EDV 32.8 [+ or -] 59.5 0.03

 56.5 (7.6-105.5) (b)

 EF 7.7 [+ or -] 7.5 0.96

 TFI -0.6 [+ or -] 0.8 0.58

Information for calculated

 MAP 9.3 [+ or -] 8.9 0.63

 HR 63.4 [+ or -] 20.1 0.65

Calculated variables

 SVR -482.0 [+ or -] 608.5 0.30

 Cardiac index 104.1 [+ or -] 82.4 0.10

 Mean increase over baseline
 Females (n = 43)

Primary outcome variables

 CO 8.4 [+ or -] 4.7

 SV 33.4 [+ or -] 24.7

Secondary outcome variables

 EDV 40.8 [+ or -] 50.5

 EF 8.8 [+ or -] 0.0

 TFI -0.6 [+ or -] 2.2

Information for calculated variables

 MAP 10.1 [+ or -] 12.0

 HR 56.8 [+ or -] 22.5

Calculated variables

 SVR -595.3 [+ or -] 394.0

 Cardiac index 114.6 [+ or -] 68.6

 Mean increase over baseline
 Males (n = 48)

Primary outcome variables

 CO 16.5 [+ or -] 14.7

 SV 77.7 [+ or -] 57.6

Secondary outcome variables

 EDV 122.2 [+ or -] 116.4

 EF 6.5 [+ or -] 8.0

 TFI -0.3 [+ or -] 2.0

Information for calculated variables

 MAP 11.3 [+ or -] 14.7

 HR 63.5 [+ or -] 19.8

Calculated variables

 SVR -769.0 [+ or -] 334.7

 Cardiac index 187.3 [+ or -] 114.9

 P difference (95% CI)

Primary outcome variables

 CO <0.01

 8.1 (4.5-11.6) (b)

 SV <0.01

 44.3 (25.4-63.1) (b)

Secondary outcome variables

 EDV <0.01

 81.4 (43.3-119.5) (b)

 EF 0.22

 TFI 0.48

Information for calculated variables

 MAP 0.69

 HR 0.14

Calculated variables

 SVR 0.03

 173.6 (21.8-325.5) (b)

 Cardiac index <0.01

 72.7 (32.7-112.7) (b)

(a) CAD, coronary artery disease; CI, confidence interval; CO, cardiac
output; SV, stroke volume; EDV, end-diastolic volume; EF, ejection
fraction; TFI, thoracic fluid index; MAP, mean arterial pressure; HR,
heart rate; SVR, systemic vascular resistance.
(b) Significant difference.

From the Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis, and UC Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, CA.

This study was supported by a grant from the UC Davis Research Committee.

Reprint requests to Steven J. Weiss, MD, Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of California, Davis, 2315 Stockton Blvd., PSSB 2100, Sacramento, CA 95817. Email:

Accepted October 28, 2002.

Copyright [c] 2003 by The Southern Medical Association 0038-4348/03/9611-1121


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Steven J. Weiss, MD, Amy A. Ernst, MD, Gary Godorov, MD, Deborah B. Diercks, MD, Josh Jergenson, BS, and J. Douglas Kirk, MD
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Title Annotation:Original Article
Author:Kirk, J. Douglas
Publication:Southern Medical Journal
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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