How Does the Six Minute Walk Test Work?
A six-minute walk test assesses a patient based on how far they can walk in six minutes. The six-minute walk test is believed to be a good overall predictor of mortality. It is believed that if a patient is unable to walk 200 yards within six minutes, then they have an increased risk of mortality within six months.
To perform the test, you explain the process to the patient. You assess their vital signs and oxygen saturation prior to starting. You monitor the patient during the walk and after they walked as far as they can walk within six minutes.
You record their vital signs and oxygen saturation again. Also, record their perception of dyspnea, or their perception of how short of breath they feel. Now, during the walk, the patient should do this independently.
Whatever their ability to walk is, or handle the walk, they should do that by themselves. Also, if the patient is on supplemental oxygen at home, then the patient should handle the oxygen device or their oxygenation as they normally would at home to predict how they will handle themselves if they’re able to still live at home by themselves.
The six-minute walk test is also very useful in setting goals for the patient. It can be re-performed, retested, at a later date to assess that goal and assess how well therapy, or medications, or exercises are going for the patient.
Again, the six-minute walk test basically assesses how far a patient can walk within six minutes, their perceived level of shortness of breath, and monitoring their vital signs before and after this process.