Novel insights into the athlete’s heart: is myocardial work the new champion of systolic function?

Tokodi M; Oláh A; Fábián A; Lakatos BK; Hizoh I; Ruppert M; Sayour AA; Barta BA; Kiss O; Sydó N; Csulak E;Ladányi Z;Merkely B; Kovács A; Radovits T

European heart journal. Cardiovascular Imaging [Eur Heart J Cardiovasc Imaging] 2021 Aug 25.
Date of Electronic Publication: 2021 Aug 25.

Aims: We sought to investigate the correlation between speckle-tracking echocardiography (STE)-derived myocardial work (MW) and invasively measured contractility in a rat model of athlete’s heart. We also assessed MW in elite athletes and explored its association with cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET)-derived aerobic capacity.
Methods and Results: Sixteen rats underwent a 12-week swim training program and were compared to controls (n = 16). STE was performed to assess global longitudinal strain (GLS), which was followed by invasive pressure-volume analysis to measure contractility [slope of end-systolic pressure-volume relationship (ESPVR)]. Global MW index (GMWI) was calculated from GLS curves and left ventricular (LV) pressure recordings. In the human investigations, 20 elite swimmers and 20 healthy sedentary controls were enrolled. GMWI was calculated through the simultaneous evaluation of GLS and non-invasively approximated LV pressure curves at rest. All subjects underwent CPET to determine peak oxygen uptake (VO2/kg). Exercised rats exhibited higher values of GLS, GMWI, and ESPVR than controls (-20.9 ± 1.7 vs. -17.6 ± 1.9%, 2745 ± 280 vs. 2119 ± 272 mmHg·%, 3.72 ± 0.72 vs. 2.61 ± 0.40 mmHg/μL, all PExercise < 0.001). GMWI correlated robustly with ESPVR (r = 0.764, P < 0.001). In humans, regular exercise training was associated with decreased GLS (-17.6 ± 1.5 vs. -18.8 ± 0.9%, PExercise = 0.002) but increased values of GMWI at rest (1899 ± 136 vs. 1755 ± 234 mmHg·%, PExercise = 0.025). GMWI exhibited a positive correlation with VO2/kg (r = 0.527, P < 0.001).
Conclusions: GMWI precisely reflected LV contractility in a rat model of exercise-induced LV hypertrophy and captured the supernormal systolic performance in human athletes even at rest. Our findings endorse the utilization of MW analysis in the evaluation of the athlete’s heart.