For many people with chronic breathing problems,
rehabilitation can be the key to returning to a more active and healthful life. Pulmonary rehab is a medically supervised
outpatient program that includes exercise training and health education to help those with chronic lung disease exercise with
less shortness of breath.
In one study of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), about 92 percent of patients showed improvement
of breathing symptoms and more than half of the patients reduced their days in the hospital the following year after pulmonary
In celebration of
Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week (March 14-20), we want you to learn the benefits of pulmonary rehab.
According to information from the
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, pulmonary rehab
can help patients with diagnoses including:
Pulmonary rehab also helps patients who will undergo lung surgery — both before and after the surgery.
How it Works
At Doylestown Hospital, patients in the
rehab program need a physician’s order and work directly with respiratory therapists (RTs) to set goals. Once objectives
are set, RTs supervise the patients who stay in the program from nine to 18 weeks depending on their condition, according to
Chris Anderson, BS, RRT, CPFT, director of respiratory care. In the program classes, the patients come to the hospital gym
twice a week to exercise and learn about their health while the RT addresses their oxygen levels, nutritional status,
psychological needs and exercise status.
For example, at the beginning of the program, RTs will have patients perform a “6-Minute Walk Test” to assess their
fitness levels. This is where patients walk for six minutes and the RT records the distance the patient covers. During the
test, the RT monitors the patient’s heart rate, oxygen level, level of exertion and the amount of oxygen needed by the
patient. Then at the end of the pulmonary rehab program, the test is repeated. “We hope the test is easier for the patients
and we hope they go farther than at the start of the program,” he says.
Pulmonary rehab patients can expect to gain some real benefits from the program including:
- A better understanding of their disease. “Patients won’t just say, ‘I have COPD’ but will understand what exactly
the diagnosis means and entails,” explains Chris.
- Knowing the warning signs of a worsening pulmonary condition.
- Being more cognizant of their diet and their fitness level.
- Understanding and being compliant with their medications.
- Feeling better about themselves.
“We try to push them beyond their limits as much as is tolerable,” says Chris. “For example, if they’re on an
exercise bike, we hope they can go longer and get stronger as the tension on the bike increases and becomes more
COVID’s Impact on the Program
Unfortunately, the program at the hospital had to change once
emerged. Prior to the pandemic, pulmonary rehab patients would participate in the classes and exercise at the hospital gym and
would often transition to a maintenance program supervised by the RTs at the same gym on a less formal basis.
But with social distancing and spacing required in the gym, the pulmonary rehab program couldn’t accommodate all the extra
maintenance patients. Still, Chris says that he hopes the maintenance program will return later this year.
Regardless, patients in the pulmonary rehab program continue to benefit from the rehab classes through developing increased
fitness and energy levels. “Ultimately, we hope they adopt exercise as a lifestyle change,” says Chris.
Estimating the effectiveness of pulmonary rehabilitation
for COPD exacerbations: Reduction of hospital inpatient days during the following year
. International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Disease, Sept. 22 2017 (online).
About Doylestown Health
Doylestown Health is a comprehensive healthcare system of inpatient, outpatient and wellness education services connected to meet the health needs of all members of the local and regional community. Doylestown Hospital, the flagship to Doylestown Health has 271 beds and a Medical Staff of more than 435 physicians in over 50 specialties. An independent nonprofit health system, Doylestown Health is dedicated to providing innovative, patient-centered care for all ages.