What are the ATS/ERS technical standards for terminating a six-minute walk test (6mwt)?

Updated: May 14, 2020
  • Author: Kevin McCarthy, RPFT; Chief Editor: Nader Kamangar, MD, FACP, FCCP, FCCM  more...
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Answer

Answer

Prior to the 2014 ATS/ERS Technical Standard for Field Walking tests, monitoring the patient with pulse oximetry was optional. This document established SpO2 falling below 80% as an indication for the operator to terminate the procedure, making the monitoring of pulse oximetry mandatory. This new standard was adopted to be consistent with guidelines for incremental exercise testing. In severely debilitated patients, a 6mwt does result in patients exerting themselves maximally, and stopping the 6mwt when the SpO2 falls below 80% is prudent for ensuring patient safety. The guidelines allow for the subject to resume the 6mwt if the SpO2 rises above 85% after stopping (the elapsed timer continues while the patient rests).

Other reasons for test cessation include chest pain, intolerable dyspnea, leg cramps, staggering, diaphoresis, and a pale or ashen appearance. If the test is stopped for any of these reasons, the patient should sit or lie supine as appropriate, and the operator should obtain blood pressure, pulse rate, SpO2 and a physician evaluation as deemed appropriate. Oxygen should be administered, if necessary.


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