MAY 12, 2016 1:06 PM PDT

Gait Speed Pre-Heart Surgery Predictive of Patient Outcomes

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
Older people are more likely to lack the strength needed to survive the recovery following heart surgery, and scientists from McGill University in Montreal are measuring “gait speed” as a test for screening patients for an increased risk of death after an invasive operation.

For more than 15,000 patients who endured common cardiac surgeries, slow gait speed pre-operation seemed to predict an increased risk of death following surgery, even if the surgery was completely successful.

“Gait” is defined as “a person’s manner of walking,” considered synonymous with “walk,” “stride,” and “tread.” For the purpose of this study, scientists from McGill University measured gait as “the time required to walk a short distance at a comfortable pace,” which specifically equaled about 16 and a half feet.

The researchers connected a low score on the gait speed test to poor postoperative patient outcomes because a slow gait  implied “impairments in lower-extremity muscle function” as well as impairments in neurosensory and cardiopulmonary function.

The study, published in JAMA Cardiology, contained a collection of gait speed test results alongside 30-day mortality and illness rates after common cardiac surgeries from 109 centers participating in the Society of Thoracic Surgeons Adult Cardiac Surgery Database.

The researchers collected a total of 15,171 results from patients with a median age of 71 years. All of the 15,171 patients in the study underwent commonly performed heart surgeries to treat ischemic and valvular heart disease: coronary artery bypass graft, aortic valve surgery, mitral valve surgery, or a combination of these procedures. 

After careful analysis, the researchers reported that on average, a slow gait speed was “independently predictive of operative mortality and, to a lesser extent, a composite outcome of mortality or major morbidity.” Specifically, being just one second behind the “healthy” gait speed increased an individual’s operative mortality by 11 percent.

The findings from this study provide doctors with more resources to make recommendations for patients seeking treatment for heart problems, but the authors of the present study said that future studies will need to be completed in order to fully understand the association between gait speed and long-term patient outcomes.

Source: The JAMA Network Journals
About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog:
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