Cycle ergometry is not a sensitive diagnostic test for mitochondrial myopathy


Cycle exercise has repeatedly been used to diagnose patients suspected of having mitochondrial myopathy (MM), in whom exercise intolerance and lactic acidosis are common. No standardized test, however, has been established. We evaluated the diagnostic value of incremental and constant workload (20 min at 65 % VO(2max)) cycle tests for the diagnosis of MM. Plasma lactate and oxidative capacity (VO(2) and workload) were measured in 15 well-characterized MM patients during cycling. Findings were compared with those in 10 myotonic dystrophy patients and 18 sedentary, healthy subjects. All MM patients had ragged red or COX-negative fibers on muscle biopsy. VO(2max) and maximal workload were lower in MM than in control groups (P < 0.02). Resting plasma lactate was higher in MM than in control groups (P < 0.005; sensitivity = 93 %; specificity = 85 %), while exercise-induced increases in plasma lactate were only higher during the constant workload protocol in MM patients vs. control groups (P < 0.05; sensitivity = 27 %; specificity = 86 %). The findings indicate that the diagnostic value of a constant workload protocol is superior to an incremental cycle test, but that the test is less sensitive for MM than simple testing of resting lactate and muscle morphology. Cycle testing of MM patients remains an important research tool, but should not be a standard diagnostic procedure for MM.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neurology
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)293-9
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2003


  • Adult
  • Exercise Test/methods
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid/blood
  • Male
  • Mitochondrial Myopathies/blood
  • Muscle, Skeletal/enzymology
  • Myotonic Dystrophy/blood
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


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