A systematic review was conducted to identify the range of terminology used in studies to describe maximum walking distance and the exercise testing protocols, and testing modalities used to measure it in patients with intermittent claudication. A secondary aim was to assess the implementation and reporting of the exercise testing protocols. CINAHL, Medline, EMBASE and Cochrane CENTRAL databases were searched. Randomised controlled trials whereby patients with intermittent claudication were randomised to an exercise intervention were included. The terminology used to describe maximal walking distance was recorded, as was the modality and protocol used to measure it. The implementation and reporting quality was also assessed using pre-specified criteria. Sixty-four trials were included in this review. Maximal walking distance was reported using fourteen different terminologies. Twenty-two different treadmill protocols and three different corridor tests were employed to assess maximal walking distance. No single trial satisfied all the implementation and reporting criteria for an exercise testing protocol. Evidence shows that between-study interpretation is difficult given the heterogenous nature of the exercise testing protocols, test endpoints and terminology used to describe maximal walking distance. This is further compounded by poor test reporting and implementation across studies. Comprehensive guidelines need to be provided to enable a standardised approach to exercise testing in patients with intermittent claudication.
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