Respiratory medicine [Respir Med] 2023 Apr 24, pp. 107249.
Date of Electronic Publication: 2023 Apr 24.
Cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) remains poorly understood and, consequently, largely underused in respiratory medicine. In addition to a widespread lack of knowledge of integrative physiology, several tenets of CPET interpretation have relevant controversies and limitations which should be appropriately recognized. With the intent to provide a roadmap for the pulmonologist to realistically calibrate their expectations towards CPET, a collection of deeply entrenched beliefs is critically discussed. They include a) the actual role of CPET in uncovering the cause(s) of dyspnoea of unknown origin, b) peak O 2 uptake as the key metric of cardiorespiratory capacity, c) the value of low lactate (“anaerobic”) threshold to differentiate cardiocirculatory from respiratory causes of exercise limitation, d) the challenges of interpreting heart rate-based indexes of cardiovascular performance, e) the meaning of peak breathing reserve in dyspnoeic patients, f) the merits and drawbacks of measuring operating lung volumes during exercise, g) how best interpret the metrics of gas exchange inefficiency such as the ventilation-CO 2 output relationship, h) when (and why) measurements of arterial blood gases are required, and i) the advantages of recording submaximal dyspnoea “quantity” and “quality”. Based on a conceptual framework that links exertional dyspnoea to “excessive” and/or “restrained” breathing, I outline the approaches to CPET performance and interpretation that proved clinically more helpful in each of these scenarios. CPET to answer clinically relevant questions in pulmonology is a largely uncharted research field: I, therefore, finalize by highlighting some lines of inquiry to improve its diagnostic and prognostic yield.