Purpose: This study assessed the effect of a wheeled walking aid on disability, oxygenation, and breathlessness in patients with severe disability secondary to chronic irreversible airflow limitation.
Methods: Eleven subjects with chronic irreversible airflow limitation, mean forced expired volume in 1 second (FEV1) 0.71 L +/- .33 L, were studied. Subjects performed four 6-minute walk tests, two on each of two study days, twice unaided and twice with the assistance of a wheeled walking aid. A randomized cross-over design was used. All subjects were oriented to 6-minute walk tests, use of bronchodilators was controlled, and standard encouragement was given during each walk test. Outcome measures were the distance walked in 6 minutes, change in oxyhemoglobin saturation during the walk, and breathlessness using a modified Borg Scale.
Results: The use of a wheeled walker resulted in a significant increase in 6-minute walking distance, a significant reduction in hypoxemia with walking and a significant reduction in breathlessness during the walk test.
Conclusions: The use of a wheeled walker resulted in significant decreases in disability, hypoxemia, and breathlessness during a 6-minute walk test. By reducing disability and breathlessness, a wheeled walker may improve quality of life in individuals with severe impairment in lung function.