Aim: To evaluate the long-term course of outcome indexes in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) undergoing repeated pulmonary rehabilitation programs (PRP).
Design: Prospective, observational study.
Setting: Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center.
Patients: Forty-eight COPD patients (M 33, age 59.6+/-8.9 years, forced expiratory volume in 1s (FEV(1)) 58+/-16% predicted, DLCO 71+/-17% predicted.) undergoing 5 Day-Hospital based PRPs in a period of 7.2+/-0.8 years.
Measurements: Lung function, exercise capacity (incremental cycloergometry, test-6-minute walking test (6MWD)), dyspnoea (Baseline-BDI and Transitional-TDI Dyspnoea Index and Medical Research Council score-MRC), health-related quality of life (HRQL) (St. George Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ), and the derived BODE index were assessed pre and post each PRP.
Results: During follow-up, patients showed a 18+/-22 (mean+/-SEM)ml/year FEV(1) decline (95%CI: -24.4 to 11.6; p<0.001). Exercise tolerance and BDI remained stable over time whereas SGRQ improved (DeltaSGRQ total score: -9.6+/-14%, p<0.001). BODE index significantly worsened (from 1.27+/-1.14 to 1.98+/-1.64; p<0.001), being this change mainly attributable to worsening in FEV(1). Each PRP elicited significant improvement in exercise capacity, dyspnoea, SGRQ and BODE score. Post-PRP improvements in 6MWD, MRC and TDI were higher after the first three than after the last two PRPs (p<0.001), whereas the greatest gain in SGRQ was observed after PRP1 and then it was lower (p<0.03) but stable in the following periods of observation.
Conclusion: Despite progressive lost in effectiveness of repeated PRP, COPD patients undergoing those programs do not show any significant worsening in exercise tolerance, dyspnoea and HRQL along a period of 7 years.