Burns, R., Olson, I., Kazmucha, J. et al. Pediatr Cardiol (2010) 31: 1043. doi:10.1007/s00246-010-9761-2
Background: Although exercise testing is an important objective method used to assess cardiopulmonary function, subjective assessment often is used as a proxy in the clinical setting. This study aimed to determine whether responses to a subjective functional capacity questionnaire administered to parents and patients in a pediatric exercise laboratory correlate with objective assessment of functional capacity, measured by peak oxygen consumption during maximal voluntary exercise testing. Methods: Subjective questionnaire responses and exercise test results collected over 10 years were retrospectively analyzed. Symptoms and physical capabilities were assessed using a 6-point Likert scale regarding the ability to attend school/work, walk, climb stairs, and run, as well as the frequency of fatigue, palpitations, and chest pain. Values of 0 to 3 were considered abnormal, whereas values of 4–5 were regarded as normal. Exercise testing was performed on a stationary cycle ergometer with a continuous ramping protocol. Heart rate and oxygen saturation were continuously monitored. Blood pressures and electrocardiograms (ECGs) were obtained at 2-min intervals. Metabolic gas analysis was performed using a breath-by-breath method. The results of the exercise testing were normalized for body size and expressed as a percentage of predicted peak oxygen consumption (%pVO2). Results: Very weak but statistically significant correlations (τ < 0.25; P < 0.05) between the scores of the school/work, walking, stair climbing, running, and fatigue items and %pVO2 were found using Kendall’s rank correlations. Conclusions: The subjective Likert scales used to assess basic physical capacity and cardiac-associated symptoms have limited ability to predict actual functional capacity as measured by %pVO2 achieved. The very weak rank-order correlation between %pVO2 achieved and the subjective reporting of the ability to attend school/work, walk, climb stairs, and run has low clinical significance and will not be useful in predicting functional capacity within the clinic setting.