BACKGROUND: We studied cardiopulmonary function during exercise in young subjects with long-standing insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) who have no clinical cardiopulmonary disease to determine the relationships of aerobic capacity, gas exchange, ventilatory power requirement, and cardiac output to chronic glycemic control. METHODS: Eighteen subjects with IDDM and 14 normal control subjects were studied. Nine diabetic subjects received twice daily insulin injections and had chronically elevated levels of glycosylated hemoglobin (hyperglycemic group); 9 other diabetic subjects received insulin via continuous infusion pumps and maintained chronic near- normal levels of glycosylated hemoglobin (normoglycemic group). At the end of at least 7 years of regular follow-up, aerobic capacity was determined by cycle ergometry. Lung volume, diffusing capacity, and cardiac output during exercise were measured by a rebreathing technique. Ventilatory power was measured by the esophageal balloon technique. RESULTS: Maximal work load and oxygen uptake were markedly impaired in chronically hyperglycemic diabetic patients associated with significant restrictions of lung volume, lung diffusing capacity, and stroke index during exercise. Membrane diffusing capacity was significantly reduced at a given cardiac index. The normoglycemic patients consistently showed less impairment than the hyperglycemic patients. CONCLUSION: Physiologically significant cardiopulmonary dysfunction develops in asymptomatic patients with long- standing IDDM. Chronic maintenance of near-normoglycemia is associated with improved cardiopulmonary function.
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