Unexplained dyspnea linked to mitochondrial myopathy following military deployment to Southwest Asia and Afghanistan.

Onofrei CD; Gottschall EB; Zell-Baran L; Rose CS; Kraus R; Pang K; Krefft SD;

Physiological reports [Physiol Rep] 2023 Jan; Vol. 11 (2), pp. e15520.

We identified a case of probable mitochondrial myopathy (MM) in a soldier with dyspnea and reduced exercise tolerance through cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) following Southwest Asia (SWA) deployment. Muscle biopsy showed myopathic features. We compared demographic, occupational exposure, and clinical characteristics in symptomatic military deployers with and without probable MM diagnosed by CPET criteria. We evaluated 235 symptomatic military personnel who deployed to SWA and/or Afghanistan between 2010 and 2021. Of these, 168 underwent cycle ergometer maximal CPET with an indwelling arterial line. We defined probable MM based on five CPET criteria: arterial peak exercise lactate >12 mEq/L, anaerobic threshold (AT) ≤50%, maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max ) <95% predicted, oxygen (O2) pulse percent predicted (pp) at least 10% lower than heart rate pp, and elevated ventilatory equivalent for O2 at end exercise (VE/VO2 ≥ 40). We characterized demographics, smoking status/pack-years, spirometry, and deployment exposures, and used descriptive statistics to compare findings in those with and without probable MM. We found 9/168 (5.4%) deployers with probable MM. Compared to symptomatic deployers without probable MM, they were younger (p = 0.0025) and had lower mean BMI (p = 0.02). They had a higher mean forced expiratory volume (FEV1) pp (p = 0.02) and mean arterial oxygen partial pressure (PaO2) at maximum exercise (p = 0.0003). We found no significant differences in smoking status, deployment frequency/duration, or inhalational exposures. Our findings suggest that mitochondrial myopathy may be a cause of dyspnea and reduced exercise tolerance in a subset of previously deployed military personnel. CPET with arterial line may assist with MM diagnosis and management.