No, six-minute walk is not a test for COVID-19

No, six-minute walk is not a test for COVID-19

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The recent misinformation trending on social media is the six-minute walk test which is performed by doctors on COVID patients to further evaluate the condition of heart and lungs.

By Tej Kumar                           

A YouTube video getting hundreds of views claims that "if you clear the six-minute walk test, then you don't have Coronavirus at all."  This is not true. The test is recommended for people with mild symptoms to access whether they are likely to develop severe illness or not. The test is a sub-maximal exercise to assess endurance.

According to a research paper by International Anesthesia Research Society made available by PubMed (the search engine of the National Library of Medicine) highlights that “the proposed use of modified 6MWT (six-minute walk test) is to identify those among mild cases that are likely to progress to severe illness”

This six-minute walk test is a validated clinical test to assess the cardiopulmonary reserve and designed for adults with chronic respiratory disease. The paper proposes to perform the test on fourth or fifth day of clinical illness based on viral load patterns in mild cases.

Since this test is easy to perform and no external device is needed, it may be recommended to self-assess our lungs and heart's functioning but not to detect Coronavirus.

Responding to this claim, Dr.Debanjan, senior resident Geriatric Psychiatry from NIMHANS said that "this test is not to detect the COVID, but it is for people who are confirmed COVID-19 positive and for risk stratification whether they have mild or severe Coronavirus in their body.” As we know that most people will recover from COVID who have mild COVID, but people who have severe stages might need additional care and monitoring and therefore it is critical to know whether they may develop severe symptoms or not.

"Doctors are proposing this test on the 4th or 5th day on a person who is confirmed COVID-19. This test can help understand the condition of heart and lungs and whether the person is going to develop severe symptoms are not," he added.

A six-minute walk test is a proposed measure to detect who may develop severe symptoms. It's not a diagnostic test for COVID-19.

It is misleading to say that clearing the six-minute walk test can prove that one is free from coronavirus. It is not a diagnostic test but a proposed test for potential application in patients with mild symptoms to optimise triage (process of determining the priority of patients' treatments) guidelines.