Pulmonary Rehabilitation for IPF as Effective as for COPD, Study Finds

Margarida Maia PhD avatar

by Margarida Maia PhD |

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Pulmonary rehabilitation is as effective a treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) as it is for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a real-world study found.

“Patients with IPF have similar completion rates and magnitude of response to pulmonary rehabilitation [to patients with COPD],” its scientists wrote. “These data reinforce the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation in patients with IPF.”

The study, “Pulmonary rehabilitation in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and COPD: a propensity matched real-world study,” was published in the journal Chest.

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pulmonary rehabilitation program uses a combination of exercise, education, and behavioral intervention to help improve lung function. The goal is to make patients feel better, become stronger, and increase their fitness. It works by promoting a sense of wellness, reducing shortness of breath, and increasing exercise tolerance.

Although pulmonary rehabilitation was developed originally for people with COPD, those with other chronic lung diseases may benefit as well.

For patients with IPF, however, there is only low to moderate evidence that pulmonary rehabilitation is effective for improving lung function.

Now, a team of researchers sought to determine whether IPF patients respond to pulmonary rehabilitation to the same extent as those with COPD.

The study matched 163 IPF patients with a group of 163 COPD patients. All patients were referred to the pulmonary rehabilitation unit of Harefield Hospital in the U.K. Their mean age was 73, and about two-thirds were men.

The program had a duration of eight weeks and comprised two supervised sessions at the hospital plus unsupervised exercises at home.

The proportion of patients who completed the program was similar between the two groups (69% IPF vs. 63% COPD). Most patients who did not complete it did so because they felt unwell for other reasons or because they could not be reached.

Following pulmonary rehabilitation, muscle strength improved in both groups, as assessed using the Medical Research Council scale.

Patients also felt physically and emotionally better, as assessed using the Chronic Respiratory Questionnaire, and were able to walk a mean 53 to 55 meters longer (58 to 60 yards), as assessed using the incremental shuttle walk test.

The majority of IPF and COPD patients felt “much better” or “a little better” after pulmonary rehabilitation (88% vs. 91%).

Researchers also examined whether failure to complete or respond to the program could be linked to death by any cause within one year. They found that IPF patients who failed to complete this rehabilitation were almost six times more likely to die within one year than those who completed it. For those who did not respond to the program, chances were almost four times higher.

“These data provide additional evidence to support the provision of pulmonary rehabilitation in IPF,” the researchers concluded.