Background: We prospectively evaluated the potential of the 6-minute walk test compared with peak VO2 in predicting outcome of patients with New York Heart Association (NYHA) class II or III heart failure.
Methods and results: Patients with a history of heart failure caused by systolic dysfunction were included. The combined final outcome (death or hospitalization for heart failure) was used as the judgment criterion. One hundred twenty-one patients (age 59+/-11 years; left ventricular ejection fraction 29.6%+/-13%) were included and followed for 1.53+/-0.98 years. Patients were separated into two groups according to outcome: group 1 (G1, 74 patients), without events, and group 2 (G2, 47 patients), who reached the combined end point. Peak VO2 was clearly different between G1 and G2 (18.5+/-4 vs. 13.9+/-4 ml/kg/min, p=0.0001) but not the distance walked (448+/-92 vs 410+/-126 m; p=0.084, not significant). Survival analysis showed that unlike peak VO2, the distance covered was barely distinguishable between the groups (p < 0.08). However, receiver operating characteristic curves revealed that the best performances for the 6-minute walk test were obtained for subjects walking < or =300 m. These patients had a worse prognosis than those walking farther (p=0.013). In this subset of patients, there was a significant correlation between distance covered and peak VO2 (r=0.65, p=0.011). Thus it appears that the more severely affected patients have a daily activity level relatively close to their maximal exercise capacity. Nevertheless, the 300 m threshold suggested by this study needs to be validated in an independent population.
Conclusions: A distance walked in 6 minutes < or =300 m can predict outcome. Moreover, in these cases there is a significant correlation between the 6-minute walk test and peak VO2 demonstrating the potential of this simple procedure as a first-line screening test for this subset of patients.