Neurophysiological assessment of skeletal muscle fatigue in patients with congestive heart failure.
BACKGROUND Recent research has demonstrated that patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) exhibit significant functional impairment of skeletal muscle and that these changes may be important determinants of exercise capacity. Although muscle strength may be mildly reduced, the most significant abnormality is markedly enhanced muscle fatigue. The goal of the present study is to determine whether accelerated fatigue is caused by impaired muscle activation, as a result of inadequate central motor drive or neuromuscular transmission, or by a change in the muscle itself.
METHODS AND RESULTS The study population consisted of nine patients with New York Heart Association class I-III CHF and eight sedentary, age- and sex-matched control subjects. Maximal voluntary contraction force of the foot dorsiflexors (primarily the tibialis anterior) was quantified as a measure of muscle strength, isometric endurance was quantified by the time required for force to decline to 60% of maximal during a sustained maximal contraction, and dynamic endurance was defined as the number of maximal contractions required for force to decline to 60% of maximal under a protocol of six repetitions per minute with an incremental duty cycle. The degree of central motor drive failure was quantified by the degree of force augmentation produced by a superimposed tetanic stimulus delivered to the peroneal nerve during the initial maximal voluntary contraction and at the time when force during the sustained isometric contraction declined to 60% of maximal. Neuromuscular junction transmission was examined by quantifying the amplitude of the compound muscle action potential (M wave) in response to a single nerve stimulus during fatiguing exercise. Muscle strength was relatively preserved in the CHF patients versus the control subjects (93 +/- 41 versus 105 +/- 34 lb; p = NS), but isometric endurance (time to decline to 60%, 34 +/- 15 versus 54 +/- 19 seconds; p less than 0.02) and dynamic endurance (number of repetitions before decline to 60%, 30 +/- 6 versus 43 +/- 7 contractions; p less than 0.001) were both impaired. Tetanic nerve stimulation increased force by similar degrees in the two groups, and the amplitude of the M wave did not decline in either group during exercise.
CONCLUSIONS These findings indicate that enhanced muscle fatigue in patients with CHF is not caused by impaired central motor drive or an abnormality of neuromuscular junction transmission but rather by an abnormality in the muscle itself.
- Copyright © 1992 by American Heart Association