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Br J Anaesth. 2012 Jan;108(1):30-5. doi: 10.1093/bja/aer322. Epub 2011 Oct 5.

Validity of the 6 min walk test in prediction of the anaerobic threshold before major non-cardiac surgery.

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Department of Anaesthesia, The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, UK.



For perioperative risk stratification, a robust, practical test could be used where cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) is unavailable. The aim of this study was to assess the utility of the 6 min walk test (6MWT) distance to discriminate between low and high anaerobic threshold (AT) in patients awaiting major non-cardiac surgery.


In 110 participants, we obtained oxygen consumption at the AT from CPET and recorded the distance walked (in m) during a 6MWT. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was used to derive two different cut-points for 6MWT distance in predicting an AT of <11 ml O(2) kg(-1) min(-1); one using the highest sum of sensitivity and specificity (conventional method) and the other adopting a 2:1 weighting in favour of sensitivity. In addition, using a novel linear regression-based technique, we obtained lower and upper cut-points for 6MWT distance that are predictive of an AT that is likely to be (P≥0.75) <11 or >11 ml O(2) kg(-1) min(-1).


The ROC curve analysis revealed an area under the curve of 0.85 (95% confidence interval, 0.77-0.91). The optimum cut-points were <440 m (conventional method) and <502 m (sensitivity-weighted approach). The regression-based lower and upper 6MWT distance cut-points were <427 and >563 m, respectively.


Patients walking >563 m in the 6MWT do not routinely require CPET; those walking <427 m should be referred for further evaluation. In situations of 'clinical uncertainty' (≥427 but ≤563 m), the number of clinical risk factors and magnitude of surgery should be incorporated into the decision-making process. The 6MWT is a useful clinical tool to screen and risk stratify patients in departments where CPET is unavailable.

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