Configuration variability of the six-minute walk test among licensed physical therapists working with neurologic conditions: a pilot survey

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Physiotherapy Theory and Practice


Background: The six-minute walk test (6MWT) is considered reliable and valid for assessing walking capacity in people with neurologic conditions. However, the consistency in the test length and configuration used is unclear. Purpose: To determine how the 6MWT was configured by licensed physical therapists working with patients with neurologic conditions in clinical practice, identify their knowledge of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy (ANPT) guidelines for the 6MWT and assess relationships between therapist demographic characteristics and knowledge of the 6MWT guidelines. Methods: One hundred forty-six therapists completed a survey related to the configuration they used for the 6MWT. Results: Configuration of the 6MWT varied widely. Space limitation was the most frequently selected reason for reported configurations. Over half had available the standardized 100-feet straight walkway but fewer than one-third used this configuration of the ATS guidelines. Fewer than half knew of the ATS guidelines and nearly three-fourths knew of the ANPT guidelines. American Physical Therapy Association membership and having a higher percentage of neurologic patients were associated with knowledge of both guidelines. Conclusion: The 6MWT must be completed within the constraints of the working environment, and this requirement is clinically relevant when comparing patient results to normative values and measurements across clinics. Our results suggest a need for updated norms that are more congruent with space constraints in current practice settings.

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