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Advanced Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing (ACPET) Program

Advanced cardiopulmonary exercise testing (ACPET) can help determine the primary cause of your undiagnosed chronic dyspnea on exertion – the recurring shortness of breath you experience when you exercise or engage in routine activities. If basic physical tasks, such as using stairs or walking the dog, make you feel exhausted and significantly affect your quality of life, your doctor may have referred you for an ACPET. 

This testing is for patients with underlying cardiopulmonary conditions, including:

  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Diastolic dysfunction
  • Autoimmune disease (such as scleroderma and lupus)
  • Parenchymal lung diseases
    • COPD
    • Interstitial lung disease
    • Cystic fibrosis

Pulmonary function tests, including spirometry, lung volumes, and diffusion capacity, are the standard for diagnosing lung diseases. Evaluating exercise limitation in patients with multiple health conditions, however, is more challenging since the tests are performed at rest. ACPET effectively addresses that issue by challenging patients to exercise for eight to 12 minutes to monitor lung and heart capacity, as well as the circulatory system. After the ACPET, your pulmonologist will be able to determine the primary cause of your exercise fatigue and develop a comprehensive treatment plan that may include:

  • Medications 
  • Surgical or cardiac/pulmonary rehabilitation therapies
  • Participation in investigational research or clinical treatment trials 

What Can I Expect? 

ACPET is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure performed at the cardiac catheterization lab at UPMC Presbyterian. Patients return home the same day as the procedure and typically resume normal activity within 24 hours. 

The care team will place two catheters, one in the neck to measure heart and lung pressures and take blood samples, and one in the wrist to measure blood pressure and take blood samples. A mouth piece is used to evaluate gas levels breathed in and out. An EKG is performed, and the patient exercises on a stationary bicycle. 

Frequently Asked Questions