[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pulmonary rehabilitation has generally relieved symptoms, strengthened exercise endurance and improved health-related quality of life (QOL) in patients with COPD, but recovery of pulmonary function remains questionable. This analysis of our innovative rehabilitation program is directed at documenting changes in patients' expiratory airflow limitation, pulmonary symptoms and QOL. This program is designed to provide "respiratory conditioning", a physical therapist-assisted intensive flexibility training that focuses on stretching and rib cage mobilization.
Thirty-one patients with COPD who attended rehabilitation sessions at Juntendo University Hospital from 1999 to 2006 were analyzed. Pulmonary function, expiratory flow limitation during tidal breathing, six minute walk distance (6MWD), respiratory muscle strength, and St. George Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) were measured before and after pulmonary rehabilitation.
In participants ages 68±7 years, the FEV(1)% predicted was 39.3±15.7%. 6MWD, SGRQ and respiratory muscle strength were significantly improved after pulmonary rehabilitation. Although neither FEV(1)% predicted nor FEV(1)/FVC was affected to a significant extent, indicating little effect on airflow limitation, expiratory flow limitation in supine as well as seated during tidal breathing improved significantly. Moreover, rehabilitation significantly diminished TLC% predicted, FRC% predicted, RV% predicted and RV/TLC values, thus indicating a reduction of hyperinflation of the lungs at rest.
The present results suggest that our rehabilitation program with respiratory conditioning significantly lowered the hyperinflation of lungs at rest as well as the expiratory flow limitation during tidal breathing. In patients with COPD, overall pulmonary function improved, exercise endurance increased and health-related QOL was enhanced.