In a new study, researchers have found that measuring the walking speed of a person living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) over 4 metres can help predict their health status over the following year.
IPF is a chronic condition that causes progressive scarring in the lungs, meaning lung function reduces over time and breathing becomes more and more difficult.
This study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, aimed to find out if the physical performance of someone living with IPF could predict the likelihood of hospitalization and whether a person would still be alive in 1 year. This is important because IPF disease progression varies a lot between different people, making it difficult to plan for the future.
Researchers measured the lung function and 4-metre gait speed (walking speed over 4 metres) of 130 people who had just been diagnosed with IPF, on a flat, open course as a quick and easy way to assess their physical ability. Over the next year, emergency hospital visits and survival status of these patients were recorded.
The results show that patients with faster 4-metre gait speeds were more likely to survive over the study period. They were also less likely to be admitted to hospital, and those that were hospitalized had a longer time before their first hospital admission than patients with a slower 4-metre gait speed.
The researchers concluded that the 4-metre gait speed test could be a useful test to help healthcare professionals assess newly diagnosed IPF patients. They also suggest that it could be a useful test for clinical trials.
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