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Z Kardiol. 2000 Feb;89(2):72-80.

[The 6 minute walking test: a cost-effective alternative to spiro-ergometry in patients with chronic heart failure?].

[Article in German]

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  • 1Innere Medizin III, Kardiologie, Angiologie und Pulmologie, Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg.


In contrast to the often debated NYHA classification, the determination of peak oxygen uptake (peak VO2) by cardiopulmonary exercise testing allows an objective assessment of the exercise capacity of patients with congestive heart failure (CHF). However, cardiopulmonary exercise testing is a time consuming and costly diagnostic tool, which requires sophisticated equipment and specially trained personel. Exercise capacity can also be determined by the 6 minute walk test. This test simply measures the distance covered by strong walking on a hallway level within 6 minutes. The 6 minute walk test is a submaximal exercise test, which is associated with much smaller increments in heart rate, blood pressure and plasma catecholamines than cardiopulmonary exercise testing. It is characterized by a very small intraindividual variance. Furthermore, it can be easily performed and, due to low logistic and personal requirements, it is very cost effective. The results of the 6 minute walk test--as well as of cardiopulmonary exercise testing--are influenced by extracardial exercise-limiting disorders, such as pulmonary diseases. Independent from the etiology of CHF, the results of the 6 minute walk test are closely related to peak VO2. In serial exercise testing the distance covered within 6 minutes allow to predict the individual peak VO2. Like peak VO2 the 6 minute walk test has been shown to be a predictor of morbidity and mortality in CHF, with its predictive value being independent from left ventricular ejection fraction and other potential prognostic parameters. In CHF patients a walking distance < 300 m is associated with a one-year-mortality of up to 50%, whereas the one-year-mortality in patients reaching a walking distance > 450 m amounts to only a few percent. In addition, the hospitalization rate of patients reaching a walking distance of < 300 m is several fold higher than in those with a walking distance > or = 450 m. Like cardiopulmonary exercise testing, the 6 minute walk test allows to control the efficiency of specific treatments and to monitor the natural course of the disease. The 6 minute walk test is, thus, a cost effective alternative to cardiopulmonary exercise testing in CHF patients. However, neither the 6 minute walk test alone nor the results of cardiopulmonary exercise testing alone are sufficient for selecting patients, e.g., for cardiac transplantation, as each individual case requires a synopsis of all relevant facts and parameters.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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