The hyperventilation syndrome (HVS) is characterized by somatic/ psychological symptoms due to sustained hypocapnia and respiratory alkalosis without any organic disease.
The purpose of this study was to compare ventilatory parameters and symptoms reproducibility during the hyperventilation provocation test (HVPT) and cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET) as diagnostic tools in patients with HVS, and to identify the most frequent etiologies of the HVS by a systematic assessment.
After exclusion of organic causes, 59 patients with HVS according to Nijmegen’s questionnaire (NQ) score ≥23 with associated hypocapnia (PaCO/PET<35 mm Hg) were studied.
The most frequent comorbidities of HVS were anxiety and asthma (respectively 95% and 73% of patients). All patients described ≥3 symptoms of NQ during the HVPT vs 14% of patients during the CPET (p<0.01). For similar maximal ventilation (61 L/min during HVPT vs 60 L/min during CPET), the median level of PET decreased from 30 mmHg at baseline to 15 mmHg during hyperventilation and increased from 31 mmHg at baseline to 34 mmHg at peak exercise (all p<0.01). No significant difference for the ventilatory parameters was found between patients with HVS (n = 16) and patients with HVS + asthma (n = 43).
In term of symptoms reproducibility, HVPT is a better diagnostic tool than CPET for HVS. An important proportion of patients with HVS has an atypical asthma previously misdiagnosed. The exercise-induced hyperventilation did not induce abnormal reduction in PET, suggesting that the exercise could be a therapeutic tool in HVS.