Predictive significance of the six-minute walk distance for long-term survival in chronic hypercapnic respiratory failure

Respiration. 2008;75(4):418-26. doi: 10.1159/000109662. Epub 2007 Oct 9.


Background: The 6-min walk distance (6-MWD) is a global marker of functional capacity and prognosis in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but less explored in other chronic respiratory diseases.

Objective: To study the role of 6-MWD in chronic hypercapnic respiratory failure (CHRF).

Methods: In 424 stable patients with CHRF and non-invasive ventilation (NIV) comprising COPD (n = 197), restrictive diseases (RD; n = 112) and obesity-hypoventilation-syndrome (OHS; n = 115), the prognostic value of 6-MWD for long-term survival was assessed in relation to that of body mass index (BMI), lung function, respiratory muscle function and laboratory parameters.

Results: 6-MWD was reduced in patients with COPD (median 280 m; quartiles 204/350 m) and RD (290 m; 204/362 m) compared to OHS (360 m; 275/440 m; p < 0.001 each). Overall mortality during 24.9 (13.1/40.5) months was 22.9%. In the 424 patients with CHRF, 6-MWD independently predicted mortality in addition to BMI, leukocytes and forced expiratory volume in 1 s (p < 0.05 each). In COPD, 6-MWD was strongly associated with mortality using the median [p < 0.001, hazard ratio (HR) = 3.75, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.24-6.38] or quartiles as cutoff levels. In contrast, 6-MWD was only significantly associated with impaired survival in RD patients when it was reduced to 204 m or less (1st quartile; p = 0.003, HR = 3.31, 95% CI: 1.73-14.10), while in OHS 6-MWD had not any prognostic value.

Conclusions: In patients with CHRF and NIV, 6-MWD was predictive for long-term survival particularly in COPD. In RD only severely reduced 6-MWD predicted mortality, while in OHS 6-MWD was relatively high and had no prognostic value. These results support a disease-specific use of 6-MWD in the routine assessment of patients with CHRF.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Exercise Test / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercapnia / diagnosis*
  • Hypercapnia / etiology
  • Hypercapnia / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome / complications
  • Prognosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / diagnosis*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / mortality
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Analysis