Desaturation during Physical Exercise in COPD Patients - a Stable-over-time Phenomenon

Folia Med (Plovdiv). 2019 Jun 1;61(2):204-212. doi: 10.2478/folmed-2018-0079.


Introduction: Exercise-induced desaturation is a common finding in patients with moderate and severe COPD. It is an important marker in the course of disease that has a prognostic value for mortality risk.

Aim: To monitor over time COPD patients with and without desaturation during 6-minute walking test (6MWT) and to assess the stability of that phenomenon.

Materials and methods: A 6MWT was administered to 70 patients with COPD which ranged in severity from stage 2A to stage 4D (GOLD 2011); the patients had a mean age of 64.5±10.1, mean pack-years - 38.8±21, FEV1% = 46.4%±15.7%, FVC% = 73.7%±1.3%, MRC = 2.31±0.84, CAT = 20.8±6.6. Oxygen saturation was monitored during the test; indications for desaturation were a decrease of SpO2 by ≥4% and a fall in SpO2 to ≤88% for at least 3 min. The patients were followed-up for mean 40.9±22.3 months and tests were repeated.

Results: Patients were divided into two groups based on the decrease in SpO2: Group A included patients with desaturation (n=35) and Group B - patients with no desaturation (n=35). In 66 of the patients the desaturation profile was stable over time. Only two patients, who did not desaturated at baseline, experienced desaturation in the follow-up 6MWT and another two patients, who desaturated at baseline, did not have it later in the follow-up.

Conclusion: Desaturation is a phenomenon that is persistent over time. Based on the results, it could be concluded that exercise-induced desaturation is a major marker of a particular COPD phenotype.

Keywords: 6MWT; COPD; exercise related desaturation.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Exercise*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Inspiratory Capacity
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Partial Pressure
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Pulmonary Diffusing Capacity
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Vital Capacity
  • Walk Test