• horse;
  • heart;
  • exercise;
  • performance;
  • myocardial function


Reasons for performing study: There is interest in using pharmacological stress testing (PST) as a substitute for exercise stress testing (EST) to evaluate cardiac function in horses.

Obectives: To compare the effect of PST and EST on right ventricular pressure dynamics and stress echocardiography.

Methods: Five horses completed a PST and EST in a randomised crossover design. High fidelity pressure transducers were placed in the right ventricle. Continuous pressure signals were digitally collected and stored, and dP/dtmax, dP/dtmin and tau calculated from these measurements. ECGs were recorded continuously for 20 h. Echocardiography was performed prior to EST and PST, during and after PST, and immediately post EST. Plasma cardiac troponin I concentrations were measured pre- and 3–4 h post stress testing. For PST, 5 μg/kg bwt glycopyrrolate i.v. followed after 10 min by 5 μg/kg bwt/min dobutamine infusion over 10 min was given. EST consisted of a 2 min gallop at 110% speed required to elicit VO2max.

Results: Both EST and PST resulted in a significant increase in right-ventricular dP/dtmax and dP/dtmin over baseline (P<0.05) and a significant decrease in tau compared with baseline (P<0.05). EST dP/dtmax and dP/dtmin were significantly greater than PST dP/dtmax and dP/dtmin (P<0.05) and EST tau was significantly less than PST tau (P<0.05). Two minutes post EST and 5 min post PST dP/dtmax were not significantly different, but were significantly less than end-EST and during PST. Tau was also not significantly different between post EST and post PST, but was significantly decreased end-EST compared with during PST. FS were not significantly different between PST and post EST, but during PST and post EST all FS were significantly higher than baseline. Cardiac troponin I concentrations were significantly elevated post PST and were greater than post EST. The clinical relevance of this is unknown.

Conclusions: PST had a similar, although less marked effect on the cardiac parameters related to right-ventricular pressure dynamics and a similar effect on echocardiography as exercise stress testing.

Potential relevance: PST deserves further evaluation in normal horses and those with cardiac disease, and may be complementary to EST to better identify exercise-induced cardiac dysfunction.