BACKGROUND--Several studies have shown that both objective and subjective measurements are related to exercise capacity in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In this study the relative contribution of lung function, maximal inspiratory pressure, dyspnoea, and quality of life to the performance in a walking distance test and a bicycle ergometer test was investigated. METHODS--Static lung volumes, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), inspiratory slow vital capacity (IVC), transfer factor for carbon monoxide (TLCO) divided by the alveolar volume (TLCO/VA), static compliance (Cst), and maximal inspiratory peak pressure (PImaxPOES) were measured in 40 patients with COPD with severe airways obstruction (mean FEV1 44% predicted, mean FEV1/IVC 37% predicted). Quality of life was assessed by the Chronic Respiratory Questionnaire (CRQ) and dyspnoea by the Borg category scale. Exercise capacity was measured by both a six minute walking distance (test) and a maximal work load of the bicycle ergometer test (Wmax). RESULTS--Spirometric values and maximal inspiratory pressure were modestly correlated with both the six minute walking test and Wmax, r values ranging from 0.50 to 0.58. The TLCO was strongly correlated with the six minute walking test (r = 0.62) and with Wmax (r = 0.78). Quality of life showed no correlation with exercise capacity, while there was a correlation between dyspnoea and the six minute walking test (r = -0.41). Backward linear regression analysis selected TLCO and PImaxPOES as the most significant determinants for exercise performance. They explained 54% and 69% of the variance in the six minute walking test and Wmax, respectively. CONCLUSIONS--The results show that exercise capacity in patients with COPD with severe airways obstruction is more strongly related to inspiratory muscle strength and lung function than to dyspnoea and quality of life. The significant correlation between dyspnoea and the six minute walking test suggests that subjective variables are more strongly related to walking tests than to bicycle ergometer tests.
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