Exercise-induced hypoxia is an index of the severity of interstitial lung disease. We hypothesized that desaturation during a 6-minute walk test would predict mortality for patients with usual interstitial pneumonia (n = 83) and nonspecific interstitial pneumonia (n = 22). Consecutive patients with biopsy-proven disease performed a 6-minute walk test between January 1996 and December 2001. Desaturation was defined as a fall in oxygen saturation to 88% or less during the 6-minute walk test. Desaturation was common (44 of 83 usual interstitial pneumonia and 8 of 22 nonspecific interstitial pneumonia; chi square, p = 0.39). Patients with usual interstitial pneumonia or nonspecific interstitial pneumonia who desaturated had a significantly higher mortality than patients who did not desaturate (respective log-rank tests, p = 0.0018, p = 0.0089). In patients with usual interstitial pneumonia, the presence of desaturation was associated with an increased hazard of death (hazard ratio, 4.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.40, 12.56; p = 0.01) after adjusting for age, sex, smoking, baseline diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide, FVC, and resting saturation. We conclude that knowledge of desaturation during a 6-minute walk test adds prognostic information for patients with usual interstitial pneumonia and nonspecific interstitial pneumonia.