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.