Objective: Approximately 30% of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience depression. Pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD focuses on physical conditioning, but includes behavioral interventions that may address depressive symptoms. This study tested the hypothesis that brief inpatient pulmonary rehabilitation is followed by improvement in both depressive symptoms and function in patients with COPD with major depression.
Methods: The subjects, who were recruited from the pulmonary rehabilitation unit of the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, NY, who had COPD and major depression were consecutively admitted patients to a pulmonary rehabilitation unit. Symptoms of depression, disability, medical burden, the experience of support, and satisfaction with treatment were systematically ascertained on admission and before discharge.
Results: Three hundred sixty-one patients were screened and 63 met criteria for COPD and major depression. Depressive symptoms improved by discharge (z = -6.785, p <0.0001); median length of stay was 16 days. Approximately 51% of subjects met criteria for response (50% or greater reduction in depressive symptoms scores from baseline), and 39% met criteria for remission (final Hamilton Depression scale score equal to or less than 10). History of treatment for depression was associated with limited change in depressive symptoms, whereas social support and satisfaction with treatment were predictors of improvement. All disability domains were lower at discharge compared to baseline (z = -3.928, p <0.0001). Subjects with pronounced disability at baseline had the greatest improvement if their depression improved by discharge.
Conclusions: Acute inpatient rehabilitation is followed by improvement of depressive symptoms and disability in older patients with COPD and major depression. Improvement of depression may be the result of behavioral interventions rather than the use of antidepressant drugs.