Objective: To compare the effects of comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation with those of education alone on physiologic and psychosocial outcomes in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Design: Randomized clinical trial.
Setting: University medical center.
Patients: 119 outpatients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that was stable while patients received a standard medical regimen.
Intervention: Patients were randomly assigned to either an 8-week comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation program or to an 8-week education program. Pulmonary rehabilitation consisted of twelve 4-hour sessions that included education, physical and respiratory care instruction, psychosocial support, and supervised exercise training. Monthly reinforcement sessions were held for 1 year. The education group attended four 2-hour sessions that included videotapes, lectures, and discussions but not individual instruction or exercise training.
Measurements: Pulmonary function, maximum exercise tolerance and endurance, gas exchange, symptoms of perceived breathlessness and muscle fatigue with exercise, shortness of breath, self-efficacy for walking, depression, general quality of well-being, and hospitalizations associated with pulmonary diseases. Patients were followed for 6 years.
Results: Compared with education alone, comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation produced a significantly greater increase in maximal exercise tolerance (+1.5 metabolic equivalents [METS] compared with +0.6 METS (P < 0.001); maximal oxygen uptake, +0.11 L/min compared with +0.03 L/min [P = 0.06]), exercise endurance (+10.5 minutes compared with +1.3 minutes [P < 0.001]), symptoms of perceived breathlessness (score of −1.5 compared with +0.2 [P < 0.001]) and muscle fatigue (score of −1.4 compared with −0.2[P < 0.01]), shortness of breath (score of −7.0 compared with +0.6 [P <0.01]), and self-efficacy for walking (score of +1.4 compared with +0.1 [P < 0.05]). There were slight but nonsignificant differences in survival (67% compared with 56% [P = 0.32]) and duration of hospital stay ( −2.4 days/patient per year compared with +1.3 days/patient per year [P = 0.20]). Measures of lung function, depression, and general quality of life did not differ between groups. Differences tended to diminish after 1 year of follow-up.
Conclusions: Comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation significantly improved exercise performance and symptoms for patients with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Benefits were partially maintained for at least 1 year and tended to diminish after that time.