Role of Exercise Treadmill Testing in the Assessment of Coronary Microvascular Disease

Academic Article


  • Objectives: The authors aimed to study the sensitivity and specificity of exercise treadmill testing (ETT) in the diagnosis of coronary microvascular disease (CMD), as well as the prognostic implications of ETT results in patients with CMD. Background: ETT is validated to evaluate for flow-limiting coronary artery disease (CAD), however, little is known about its use for evaluating CMD. Methods: We retrospectively studied 249 consecutive patients between 2006 and 2016 who underwent ETT and positron emission tomography within 12 months. Patients with obstructive CAD or left ventricular systolic dysfunction were excluded. CMD was defined as a coronary flow reserve <2. Patients were followed for the occurrence of a first major adverse event (composite of death or hospitalization for myocardial infarction or heart failure). Results: The sensitivity and specificity of a positive ETT to detect CMD were 34.7% (95% CI: 25.4%-45.0%) and 64.9% (95% CI: 56.7%-72.5%), respectively. The specificity of a positive ETT to detect CMD increased to 86.8% (95% CI: 80.3%-91.7%) when only classifying studies with ischemic electrocardiogram changes that lasted at least 1 minute into recovery as positive, although at a cost of lower sensitivity (15.3%; 95% CI: 8.8%-24.0%). Over a median follow-up of 6.9 years (IQR: 5.1-8.2 years), 30 (12.1%) patients met the composite endpoint, including 13 (13.3%) with CMD (n = 98). In patients with CMD, ETT result was not associated with the composite endpoint (P = 0.076). Conclusions: Our data suggest limited sensitivity of ETT to detect CMD. However, a positive ETT with ischemic changes that persist at least 1 minute into recovery in the absence of obstructive CAD should raise suspicion for the presence of CMD given a high specificity. Further study is needed with larger patient sample sizes to assess the association between ETT results and outcomes in patients with CMD.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Lopez DM; Divakaran S; Gupta A; Bajaj NS; Osborne MT; Zhou W; Hainer J; Bibbo CF; Skali H; Dorbala S
  • Start Page

  • 312
  • End Page

  • 321
  • Volume

  • 15
  • Issue

  • 2