Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an increasingly common cause of death worldwide. Its cardinal symptoms include breathlessness and severely reduced exercise capacity. Several patient-reported outcome (PRO) measures are used to assess health-related quality of life (HRQoL), functional performance, and breathlessness in patients with COPD. Exercise testing is employed to measure functional performance objectively, which is generally believed to impact on overall HRQoL. However, the extent to which commonly used laboratory- and field-based exercise test results correlate with PROs has not been systematically assessed.
A search of Embase, MedLine, and the Cochrane Library identified primary publications in English that reported data on the correlations (Pearson’s r or Spearman’s ρ) between the outcomes of exercise tests and HRQoL and breathlessness PROs. Studies reporting on the following tests were included: 6-minute walk test (6MWT), 12MWT, incremental and endurance shuttle walk tests, incremental and endurance cycle ergometer tests, and treadmill tests.
Of 3,205 articles screened, 28 were deemed eligible for inclusion. The most commonly reported HRQoL PRO measure was the St George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (13 studies), and the most commonly reported breathlessness PRO measure was the Baseline Dyspnea Index (six studies). The St George’s Respiratory Questionnaire appears to correlate very weakly to moderately with the 6MWT, and breathlessness PROs appear to be moderately to strongly associated with 6MWT outcomes. Across all studies, the 6MWT was the most commonly reported exercise test. Very few publications reporting associations between other exercise tests and PRO measures were found.
This review found evidence to support the association of 6MWT outcomes with HRQoL and breathlessness PROs. There were limited data showing correlations with the outcomes of other exercise tests. Further work is required to examine the associations between these PROs and exercise test outcomes.