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Where you receive pulmonary rehab doesn’t matter

Created date

August 10th, 2016

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other chronic breathing problems may need pulmonary rehabilitation, especially after an exacerbation of their disease. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a medically supervised program in which patients learn how to breathe better. It may involve exercise training, energy-conserving techniques, nutritional counseling, breathing strategies, and education about lung disease.

Most of the time, pulmonary rehabilitation is provided at a hospital-based outpatient program, but as is the trend with many traditional hospital-based services, more patients are receiving pulmonary rehabilitation at home. To explore the effectiveness of home-based pulmonary rehabilitation, a team of researchers from Alfred Health and La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, designed a home program and tested it against a traditional hospital program to determine whether it could improve COPD patients’ fitness and quality of life. 

Home vs. outpatient

The research, presented at the American Thoracic Society’s 2016 International Conference, involved 166 randomized controlled patients divided into a hospital group and a home group. After an initial visit from a physiotherapist, the home group patients decided on their own exercise program and then reviewed their fitness goals and progress via weekly calls with a health care professional. The hospital patients attended twice weekly pulmonary rehabilitation sessions, which included group exercise and education.  

After eight weeks, the researchers analyzed the data and found that the two groups had comparable results in increased levels of fitness, the primary outcome measure. Costs of the two programs were also comparable.

Less than 10% of patients in developed countries enter pulmonary rehabilitation, according to the study’s lead author, Anne Holland, Ph.D. These results show that it can make a difference in the lives of COPD patients. More study is needed to assess long-term outcomes of these programs. 

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