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Nicolai Maldaner, Marketa Sosnova, Anna M. Zeitlberger, Michal Ziga, Oliver P. Gautschi, Luca Regli, Astrid Weyerbrock, Martin N. Stienen, and for the International 6WT Study Group


Digital transformation enables new possibilities to assess objective functional impairment (OFI) in patients with lumbar degenerative disc disease (DDD). This study examines the psychometric properties of an app-based 6-minute walking test (6WT) and determines OFI in patients with lumbar DDD.


The maximum 6-minute walking distance (6WD) was determined in patients with lumbar DDD. The results were expressed as raw 6WDs (in meters), as well as in standardized z-scores referenced to age- and sex-specific values of spine-healthy volunteers. The 6WT results were assessed for reliability and content validity using established disease-specific patient-reported outcome measures.


Seventy consecutive patients and 330 volunteers were enrolled. The mean 6WD was 370 m (SD 137 m) in patients with lumbar DDD. Significant correlations between 6WD and the Core Outcome Measures Index for the back (r = −0.31), Zurich Claudication Questionnaire (ZCQ) symptom severity (r = −0.32), ZCQ physical function (r = −0.33), visual analog scale (VAS) for back pain (r = −0.42), and VAS for leg pain (r = −0.32) were observed (all p < 0.05). The 6WT revealed good test-retest reliability (intraclass correlation coefficient 0.82), and the standard error of measurement was 58.3 m. A 4-tier severity stratification classified patients with z-scores > −1 (no OFI), −1 to −1.9 (mild OFI), −2 to −2.9 (moderate OFI), and ≤ −3 (severe OFI).


The smartphone app-based self-measurement of the 6WT is a convenient, reliable, and valid way to determine OFI in patients with lumbar DDD. The 6WT app facilitates the digital evaluation and monitoring of patients with lumbar DDD.