Assessing the exertion required to induce breathlessness in a population with advanced cancer: Matching measures to the level of physical function

Kahren M. White, Meera R. Agar, David C. Currow

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1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: The aim of the study was to assess four evidence-based assessments utilising exercise challenges that induce breathlessness, each with progressively less demanding levels of exertion, which can be tailored to people with a range of functional capabilities in the setting of advanced cancer for research studies. Functional cut off points for these assessments have not previously been defined. Methods: A cross sectional study of four exercise tests attempted by all participants: 6 min walk test (6MWT); (derived) 2 min walk test (2MWT); arm exercises; and reading numbers aloud. Performance status (Australia-modified Karnofsky Performance Status (AKPS)), baseline breathlessness using the modified Medical Research Council (mMRC) breathlessness scale, and a visual analogue scale of intensity and unpleasantness of breathlessness were measured. Co-morbidity was codified using the Charlson Co-morbidity Index. Percentage of people completing each test by AKPS level of function and baseline mMRC breathlessness scores were quantified. Results: In the 68 participants, poorer function decreased the proportion of people able to complete the exercise tests. For completion rates ≥80%, of 6MWT and 2MWT, only people with an AKPS 70-90 had completion. For arm exercises, this included people with an AKPS as low as ≥50; and for reading numbers, it included people with an AKPS of 40 but not below. Conclusions: Walking tests have poor utility in people with high levels of functional impairment. For people with high levels of dependence, reading numbers should be used in evaluating exercise-induced breathlessness in research studies. These data also suggest that people's exertional limitations have been under-estimated as cancer progresses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Number of pages6
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Volume18
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s). 2019 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Keywords

  • Arm exercises
  • Clinical research tools
  • Cohort study
  • Exercise-induced breathlessness
  • Six minute walk test

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