Capillary density of skeletal muscle: A contributing mechanism for exercise intolerance in class II-III chronic heart failure independent of other peripheral alterations

Brian D. Duscha, William E. Kraus, Steven J. Keteyian, Martin J. Sullivan, Howard J. Green, Fred H. Schachat, Anne M. Pippen, Clinton A. Brawner, Jason M. Blank, Brian H. Annex

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OBJECTIVES: The study was conducted to determine if the capillary density of skeletal muscle is a potential contributor to exercise intolerance in class II-III chronic heart failure (CHF). BACKGROUND: Previous studies suggest that abnormalities in skeletal muscle histology, contractile protein content and enzymology contribute to exercise intolerance in CHF. METHODS: The present study examined skeletal muscle biopsies from 22 male patients with CHF compared with 10 age-matched normal male control patients. Aerobic capacities, myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoforms, enzymes, and capillary density were measured. RESULTS: The patients with CHF demonstrated a reduced peak oxygen consumption when compared to controls (15.0 ± 2.5 vs. 19.8 ± 5.0 ml · kg-1 · min-1, p <0.05). Using cell-specific antibodies to directly assess vascular density, there was a reduction in capillary density in CHF measured as the number of endothelial cells/fiber (1.42 ± 0.28 vs. 1.74 ± 0.35, p = 0.02). In CHF, capillary density was inversely related to maximal oxygen consumption (r = 0.479, p = 0.02). The MHC IIx isoform was found to be higher in patients with CHF versus normal subjects (28.5 ± 13.6 vs. 19.5 ± 9.4, p <0.05). CONCLUSIONS: There was a significant reduction in microvascular density in patients with CHF compared with the control group, without major differences in other usual histologic and biochemical aerobic markers. The inverse relationship with peak oxygen consumption seen in the CHF group suggests that a reduction in microvascular density of skeletal muscle may precede other skeletal muscle alterations and play a critical role in the exercise intolerance characteristic of patients with CHF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1956-1963
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 1 1999
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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