Despite limited research and large cost differences, rollator-style walkers and oxygen are both used to improve the ability to walk in people with mildly hypoxemia (PO2 55 – 65 mmHg) and exertional desaturation. The purpose of this trial was to compare rollator-style walkers to oxygen on the six minute walk test.
A single-blind randomized controlled crossover trial was used to assess the endpoints of distance walked, oxygen saturation, perceived exertion, and speed on the six-minute walk test. Open- and closed-ended questions were used to elicit the subject’s values and feelings towards the interventions.
Eleven participants were recruited from a tertiary rehabilitation centre from May to December 2001. The patients mean age (± standard deviation) was 67.5 ± 16.6 years, FEV1.0 (percent predicted) was 26.1 ± 6.8 %, and PaO2 was 61.2 ± 2.3 mmHg. There were no significant period by treatment interactions, or period effects on any outcome. There was no significant difference between walkers and oxygen on distance or speed walked, but oxygen outperformed walkers on final oxygen saturation and perceived exertion. The mean difference between interventions was 22.2 (95% CI: –76.7 to +32.4) metres for distance, 7.8 (5.0 to 10.6) percent for oxygen saturation, 1.3 (95% CI 0.1 to2.4) points for exertional desaturation, and 0.2 (95% CI –0.13 to 0.08) metres per second for speed. Oxygen (51.2 (95% CI 18.6 to 84.0) metres), but not walkers (31.4 (95% CI –3.4 to 66.2) metres), improved distance walked compared to unassisted walks. Participants indicated that both interventions improved their walking but more preferred the walker.CONCLUSIONS: Despite not correcting exertional desaturation or reducing perceived exertion, walkers still resulted in similar distance walked compared to oxygen.IMPLICATIONS: Walkers are lower cost and have potentially better patient acceptability when compared to oxygen in individuals with COPD and exertional desaturation.
D. McKim, None.