Use of exercise tests in screening for pulmonary arterial hypertension in systemic sclerosis: A systematic literature review.

Madigan S; School of Medicine, The University of Adelaide,  Australia.;
Proudman S; Schembri D; Davies H; Adams R;

Journal of scleroderma and related disorders [J Scleroderma Relat Disord] 2024 Feb; Vol. 9 (1), pp. 50-58.
Date of Electronic Publication: 2023 Oct 02.

Background and Objective: Patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) have a poor prognosis, accounting for 30% of all SSc-related deaths. Guidelines recommend annual screening for PAH regardless of symptoms, as early treatment improves outcomes. Current protocols include combinations of clinical features, biomarkers, pulmonary function tests, and echocardiography. None include exercise testing, although early-stage PAH may only be evident during exercise. This systematic review assessed the performance of exercise tests in predicting the presence of PAH in patients with SSc, where PAH was confirmed through right heart catheterisation (RHC).
Methods: Comprehensive literature searches were performed using MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trails, CINAHL, Scopus and Web of Science from inception to May 2023. Articles were screened for eligibility by two independent reviewers. Eligibility criteria included the use of a non-invasive exercise test to screen adult patients to detect PAH in a population without a previous diagnosis of PAH, with diagnosis confirmed by RHC.
Results: Eight studies met the inclusion criteria, describing at least one of three different non-invasive exercise tests: cardiopulmonary exercise test, six-minute walk test and stress Doppler echocardiography. All studies found that exercise tests had some ability to predict the presence of PAH, with sensitivity between 50% and 100% and specificity from 73% to 91%.
Conclusion: Exercise tests are infrequently used for screening for PAH in SSc but can predict the presence of PAH. More data are required to establish which tests are most effective.