Aims: The 6-min walk test may serve as a more simple clinical tool to assess functional capacity in congestive heart failure than determination of peak oxygen uptake by cardiopulmonary exercise testing. The purpose of the study was to prospectively examine whether the distance ambulated during a 6-min walk test (i) correlates with peak oxygen uptake, (ii) allows peak oxygen uptake to be predicted, and (iii) provides prognostic information similar to peak oxygen uptake in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy and left ventricular ejection fraction < or = 35%.
Methods and results: In 113 patients (age: 54+/-12 years, NYHA: 2.2+/-0.8) with dilated cardiomyopathy (left ventricular ejection fraction 19+/-7%) a 6-min walk test and cardiopulmonary exercise testing were performed. The 6-min walk test and peak oxygen uptake were closely correlated at the initial visit (r=0.68, n=113), as well as after 263+/-114 (r=0.71, n=28) and 381+/-170 days (r=0.74, n=14). During serial exercise testing the 6-min walk test allowed peak oxygen uptake to be reliably predicted (r=0.76 between calculated and real peak oxygen uptake). After 528+/-234 days, 42 patients were hospitalized due to worsening heart failure and/or died from cardiovascular causes. Compared to clinically stable patients, these 42 patients walked a shorter distance (423+/-104 vs 501+/-95 m, P<0.001) and had a lower peak oxygen uptake (12.7+/-4.0 vs 17.4 + 5.6 ml x min(-1) x kg(-1), P<0.001). By univariate analysis the 6-min walk test outperformed other prognostic parameters such as left ventricular ejection fraction, cardiac index and plasma norepinephrine concentration and conferred a prognostic power similar to peak oxygen uptake. This predictive value could be further improved in a multivariate model, by combining the 6-min walk test with independent variables, such as left ventricular ejection fraction or cardiac index.
Conclusion: The 6-min walk test correlated with peak oxygen uptake when tested serially over the course of the disease. Although both tests define two distinct domains of functional capacity, the 6-min walk test provides prognostic information very similar to peak oxygen uptake in congestive heart failure patients with dilated cardiomyopathy.