Pulmonary rehabilitation programs can improve exercise capacity and health-related quality of life in patients with interstitial lung diseases (ILDs), including those with pulmonary fibrosis, a study shows. These findings support pulmonary rehabilitation as a first-line therapy to pulmonary fibrosis patients to improve their symptoms.
The research “Effectiveness of pulmonary rehabilitation in patients with interstitial lung disease of different etiology: a multicenter prospective study” was recently published in the journal BMC Pulmonary Medicine.
Increasing evidence supports pulmonary rehabilitation programs as benefiting people with ILDs — a term covering a heterogeneous group of diseases characterized by lung inflammation and fibrosis, such as pulmonary fibrosis. Their usefulness to patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), however, remains far from clear.
This rehabilitation involves aerobic and resistance exercises, breathing techniques, self-management sessions for symptoms and physical activity.
Researchers at the University of Modena Reggio Emilia, Italy, investigated the therapeutic effects of a standard pulmonary rehabilitation program in 41 patients with ILD, including 26 diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Their weekly pulmonary rehabilitation program consisted of six hours of individual exercise training; two sessions of breathing techniques (4-5 times a week), and three sessions of group education.
Researchers assessed lung function through several tests, including forced vital capacity (FVC), and exercise capacity through the six-minute walk distance (6MWD) test. They also assessed disease severity, lack of breath (dyspnea), and health-related quality of life (using the St. George Respiratory Questionnaire).
Overall, 40 patients (97%) completed the rehabilitation program, with each patient undergoing 26 to 32 sessions.
The analysis showed that ILD patients, including those with pulmonary fibrosis, largely benefited from this pulmonary rehabilitation program, denoted particularly through improvements in exercise performance and their perceived quality of life regardless of the underlying disease (idiopathic versus non-idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis).
These results support findings that pulmonary rehabilitation can significantly benefit patients with impaired lung function, independent of the cause underlying their disease and their disease stage.
“Since the degree of improvement across measured outcomes is remarkable, this suggests that pulmonary rehabilitation should be a first line therapy for managing symptomatic patients with ILD of different nature and mild to moderate severity,” the team concluded.