The amount of physical activity COPD patients engage in correlates with the likelihood they are hospitalized for respiratory-related issues, according to a study presented at ATS 2013. Investigators found that both a lower level of physical activity and shorter 6MWD (6-minute walk distance) predict hospitalizations, underscoring the importance of both of these variables in assessing COPD severity.

The retrospective study looked at baseline data collected from 60 COPD patients in 2008 and compared that data with the number of hospitalizations that occurred during the follow-up period. Researchers also evaluated patients’ exercise capacity using the 6MWD, supplemental oxygen use and FEV1.

Investigators found that 34 patients were hospitalized from any cause and 21 were hospitalized for respiratory disease-related illness during that period.

Oxygen use and shorter 6MWD values, along with lower vector magnitude unit (VMU) levels, were associated with greater numbers of overall and respiratory-related hospitalizations after adjusting for disease severity variables. However, in the multivariate testing, only 6MWD and VMU remained as predictive of hospitalizations.

“What we found was that patients who were able to walk less than 350 meters during the 6MWD and who had VMU scores of under 150 were significantly more likely to be hospitalized, either for respiratory-related causes or for any cause,” said study lead author Sheila Zanoria, MD, resident at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, Conn.

“These results underscore the importance of both of these variables in assessing COPD severity. Knowing this may help clinicians expand their efforts in COPD management towards improving physical activity levels of their patients, thereby reducing healthcare utilization.”