It is uncertain whether the effort and expense of performing a second walk for the 6-min walk test improves test performance. Hence, we attempted to quantify the improvement in 6-min walk distance if an additional walk were to be performed.
We studied patients consecutively enrolled into the National Emphysema Treatment Trial who prior to randomization and after 6 to 10 weeks of pulmonary rehabilitation performed two 6-min walks on consecutive days (N = 396). Patients also performed two 6-min walks at 6-month follow-up after randomization to lung volume reduction surgery (n = 74) or optimal medical therapy (n = 64). We compared change in the first walk distance to change in the second, average-of-two, and best-of-two walk distances.
Compared with the change in the first walk distance, change in the average-of-two and best-of-two walk distances had better validity and precision. Specifically, 6 months after randomization to lung volume reduction surgery, changes in the average-of-two (r = 0.66 vs r = 0.58, P = .01) and best-of-two walk distances (r = 0.67 vs r = 0.58, P = .04) better correlated with the change in maximal exercise capacity (ie, better validity). Additionally, the variance of change was 14% to 25% less for the average-of-two walk distances and 14% to 33% less for the best-of-two walk distances than the variance of change in the single walk distance, indicating better precision.
Adding a second walk to the 6-min walk test significantly improves its performance in measuring response to a therapeutic intervention, improves the validity of COPD clinical trials, and would result in a 14% to 33% reduction in sample size requirements. Hence, it should be strongly considered by clinicians and researchers as an outcome measure for therapeutic interventions in patients with COPD.