Exercise-induced arterial hypoxemia (EIAH) has been reported in patients with juvenile thyroid cancer treated with radioiodine for lung metastases. This retrospective study tested the hypothesis that EIAH is due to ventilation-perfusion-mismatch in this rare pulmonary condition.
50 patients (age 13–23 years) treated for juvenile thyroid carcinoma and lung metastasis with 131I and 24 controls with thyroid cancer but without lung metastases and prior 131I-treatment were assessed in a state of acute hypothyroidism by com-puted tomography of the lungs, pulmonary function testing, cardiopulmonary exercise test with measurements of gas exchange, oxygen saturation, alveolar-arterial difference in pO2 (p(A-a)O2) and pCO2 (p(ET-a)CO2).
10 of the 50 patients with lung metastases showed EIAH. They had more pronounced pulmonary fibrosis on computed tomography, a widened p(A-a)O2, and p(ET-a)CO2, a lower DVE/DVCO2-slope, a lower respiratory rate and no increased dead space ventilation. A more pronounced EIAH was associated with male gender, younger age, lower diffusion capacity, higher p(ET-a)CO2 during exercise and a higher peak exercise tidal volume over vital capacity ratio.
EIAH in patients with thyroid carcinoma and pulmonary metastases is not related to ventilation-perfusion mismatch but to alveolar hypoventilation, possibly related to an increased work of breathing with pulmonary fibrosis.