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Clinical Research

Value of measuring end tidal partial pressure of carbon dioxide as an adjunct to treadmill exercise testing

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 07 May 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:1281
  1. John B Chambers,
  2. Peter J Kiff,
  3. William N Gardner,
  4. Graham Jackson,
  5. Christopher Bass


    The end tidal partial pressure of carbon dioxide (Pco2) was measured during treadmill exercise in 30 normal controls and 113 patients referred for assessment of chest pain. Among the 92 patients without significant ST depression hypocapnia occurred more often in those reporting “typical” than “atypical” chest pain (17 of 22 patients compared with 29 of 70; p<0·01). Hypocapnia was uncommon in patients with significant ST depression whether reporting typical or atypical chest pain (one of 10 patients and two of 11, respectively).

    Hypocapnia at rest (Pco2 <4 kPa) occurred in 16 (14%) patients but in only one control. Hypocapnia occurred during or after exercise in only one control and three of the 21 patients with significant ST depression on exercise (group 1). The remaining 92 patients were divided into those with a history suggestive of hyperventilation (group 2; n=30) and those without (group 3; n=62). Hypocapnia developed significantly more often in both these groups (21 and 25 patients respectively) than in controls or patients with significant ST depression.

    An abnormal response of the Pco2 to exercise provided objective data to support a clinical suspicion of chest pain induced by hyperventilation in 24 cases, suggested a cause for equivocal ST depression other than coronary stenosis in five patients, and led to the diagnosis of previously unsuspected respiratory disease in 14 patients.

    Measurement of end tidal Pco2 gives additional valuable diagnostic information during the conventional treadmill exercise test in patients with both typical and atypical chest pain.