Walking Speed Can Predict Survival Among Blood Cancer Patients

Scientists have identified that gait speed or walking speed can predict survival in blood cancer patients.

2 min read
Gait speed has been widely used as an assessment in rehabilitative and geriatric medicine.

A new study, published in the journal Blood, reports that walking speed is a great indicator to predict survival and hospital utilization among older patients with blood cancer.

This study was done by the researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the VA Boston Healthcare System. According to the study, the speed at which the patients walk can be a new vital sign for gauging survival and likelihood of having an unplanned hospitalization in older patients with blood cancers.

The Study

This study enrolled a total of 448 adults aged 75 years and older who had hematologic cancers. Participants were 79.7 years old on average and completed several screenings for cognition, frailty, gait, and grip strength. Gait speed was measured using the National Institutes of Health 4-meter gait speed test. Patients were asked to walk at a normal pace for 4 meters, and their speed was recorded in meters per second using a stopwatch.

According to the researchers, every 0.1 meters per second decrease in the speed at which the patients walk four meters (about 13 feet), the risk of dying, unexpectedly going to the hospital, or using the emergency room increased by 22 percent, 33 percent, and 34 percent, respectively. The association was strongest in patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Slower walking speed was associated with poor outcomes even after adjusting for cancer types and aggressiveness, patient age and other demographic factors.The speed of walking remained n independent predictor of death even after accounting for standard measures of physical health.

During the study,patients whose performance status - their general well-being and quality of life - was rated as very good or excellent by their physician were stratified into three groups by gait speed - those at risk or frail, pre-frail, or robust. Of the 314 patients in this group, nearly 20 percent had an unplanned hospital stay unrelated to elective or scheduled treatments, and 16.8 percent visited the emergency department.

Walking is a complex phenomenon as it affects various bodily systems. Gait speed has been widely used as an assessment in rehabilitative and geriatric medicine.

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