Study objectives: During a bronchial provocation test (BPT), the performance of maximal inspiratory-expiratory maneuvers, causing abrupt and marked shifts in intrathoracic pressure, may increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmias. Moreover, the inhalation of methacholine (MCh), a cholinergic agonist agent, could favor the development of unwelcome cardiovascular events, namely, cardiac arrhythmias.
Subjects and methods: We studied the number and severity of cardiac arrhythmias by ECG-Holter monitoring before, during, and after BPTs with MCh challenge in a group of 46 consecutive nonselected subjects (28 men and 18 women) with clinical indications for BPT, without preexisting cardiovascular diseases, and not receiving arrhythmogenic drugs. The subjects performed a routine pulmonary function test (PFT), followed by BPT, during ECG-Holter monitoring. Determination of the serum potassium concentration, a baseline arterial blood gas analysis, and monitoring of oxyhemoglobin saturation also were performed.
Results: We found no significant increase in the number of supraventricular and ventricular arrhythmias during the performance of PFTs and of BPTs with MCh in the subjects, either with or without bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR). However, during the performance of BPTs, we observed a significant reduction in mean heart rate.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that the performance of PFTs and BPTs with MCh does not increase the cardiac arrhythmogenic risk in subjects without cardiovascular diseases, as well as in those with BHR, suggesting that these tests are safe to perform in most subjects.