Exercise capacity and participation of children with a ventricular septal defect

Mathijs Binkhorst, Tom van de Belt, Marieke de Hoog, Arie van Dijk, Michiel Schokking, Maria Hopman

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Existing data on exercise performance in children with a ventricular septal defect (VSD) are scarce and inconclusive. We aimed to elucidate whether and why exercise capacity and physical activity level are decreased in children with VSD. Children 9 to 17 years of age with a surgically (operated, n = 13) or conservatively (unoperated, n = 14) managed VSD were compared with healthy peers (controls, n = 15) regarding (1) anthropometric and spirometric measurements; (2) cycle ergometric performance in terms of peak oxygen uptake, peak heart rate, and peak workload; and (3) mean daily energy expenditure. All subjects completed a questionnaire on physical activity participation, overprotection, and self-perceived fitness and health. Anthropometric variables were comparable among groups, whereas lung function at rest was mildly decreased in the 2 VSD subgroups. Exercise testing succeeded in all 42 subjects; valid results were obtained in 39. Weight- and body fat-adjusted peak oxygen uptake, peak workload, and energy expenditure were not significantly different among groups. Peak heart rate emerged as significantly lower in operated subjects, which was not attributable to poorer effort. Physical fitness and general health were rated comparably among groups, whereas participation in sports was markedly lower in children with VSD. Discouragement from engaging in (strenuous) exercise occurred equally infrequently in children with VSD and controls. In conclusion, children with patent or surgically closed VSDs have a normal exercise capacity, despite a mild chronotropic limitation in the latter. Previous cardiac surgery did not influence these children's exercise performance. These children consider themselves healthy, they exhibit a normal habitual physical activity level, and they are not withheld from (strenuous) exercise
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1079-1084
JournalAmerican journal of cardiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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