Background: In spite of the well-demonstrated benefits for patients with COPD, pulmonary rehabilitation programmes show considerable drop-out and suboptimal attendance rates. The purpose of this prospective study is to examine causes for drop-out and non-attendance during a 12 week multidisciplinary pulmonary rehabilitation programme, and to investigate whether sociodemographic and medical factors as well as patients' perception of their illness are related to drop-out and non-attendance.
Methods: Two hundred and seventeen patients with COPD who were referred to a rehabilitation centre participated in this multicentre study. Prior to treatment, patients received a questionnaire, which included the Illness Perception Questionnaire-Revised. Clinical data were drawn from medical records. Drop-out and attendance were recorded during the programme.
Results: Fifty patients (23%) did not complete the rehabilitation course, of which half was due to medical reasons (e.g. exacerbations, hospitalisations). Non-completion could not be predicted by baseline sociodemographic, clinical or psychological variables. Patients who declined treatment did not differ from patients who dropped out due to medical reasons. On average, patients attended 92% of all scheduled appointments. Of all missed appointments, approximately 20% were accountable to factors beyond patients' control (e.g. absent therapists, hospitalisations). Smoking, living alone, a lower fat free mass and lower confidence in treatment increased the chance of patients not attending an appointment during rehabilitation.
Conclusion: In general, adherence in rehabilitation is high. However, paying attention to patients' nutritional status and creating a positive expectation of treatment during referral and intake appear to be important if one aims to optimise patients' attendance during rehabilitation.