Walk Test Can Predict Course of Heart Failure for Black Patients
[Writer] This is research news from U-I-C – the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Today, Dr. Thomas Stamos, assistant professor of cardiology at the UIC College of Medicine talks about a simple diagnostic test, the six minute walk test, which can reliably predict risk of death or re-hospitalization in African-American patients with heart failure
Here’s Dr. Stamos :
[Stamos] Heart failure is an illness that is associated with frequent re-hospitalization and can also hold a high level of what we call mortality, or death, in some patients. So we were interested in looking at a rather simple test in trying to determine which patients are at highest risk.
What we did was we studied the use of what’s called a “six minute walk test.” It’s basically just what it sounds like. We ask a patient to walk for six minutes and we measure the distance that they were able to walk.
This is a test that has been used in the past in heart failure patients and has been able to predict outcome. It’s been able to predict whether patients would be re-hospitalized – or even death – however it’s never been looked at in an African American patient population.
So we were interested in looking at this test specifically in African American patients. This study did include both African American men and women.
We looked at 200 patients who were admitted to the hospital with what we call decompensated heart failure – their lungs were filled up with fluid, they had fluid in the legs, and 100 % of these patients were African American.
We then performed the six minute walk test on patients. We got the patients up, into the hall, had them walk for six minutes and measured the distance that they were able to walk.
We then followed the patients for 40 months looking at how frequently patients were re- hospitalized with heart failure. And we also looked at what we call mortality, or what percentage of patients died during this 40 month time period.
What we found was that in patients who were able to walk less than 200 meters, they were much more likely to both die and to be re-hospitalized. Patients unable to walk more than 200 meters died 40% of the time versus only 19% of the patients who were able to walk more than 200 meters. Just to put 200 meters into perspective, that’s about the distance of the length of a football field twice.
Patients were re-hospitalized more often also if they were unable to walk more than 200 meters. About 70% of the patients who were unable to walk more than 200 meters were re-hospitalized during that 40 month time period versus 52% of the patients who were able to walk further.
So what this study showed us was that with this very simple test, we were able to predict both who would die in this period of time, as well as who would be re-hospitalized with heart failure.
What we believe this study can do for us in the future is it may help us decide which patients we should concentrate more of our efforts on. If we know that a patient is likely to die or be re-hospitalized, we may be more aggressive with their medical therapy, we may have them follow-up in the clinic more frequently and keep a closer eye on them in order to prevent these things from happening.
[Writer] Dr. Thomas Stamos is an assistant professor in cardiology at the UIC College of Medicine.
For more information about this research, go to www-dot-news-dot- uic-dot-edu (www.news.uic.edu) … click on “news releases.” … and look for the release dated May 19, 2009.
This has been research news from U-I-C – the University of Illinois at Chicago.