Impact of a rehabilitation program on dyspnea intensity and quality in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Respiration. 2011;81(3):186-95. doi: 10.1159/000273675. Epub 2010 Jan 5.


Background: It has yet to be determined whether the language of dyspnea responds to pulmonary rehabilitation programs (PRP).

Objective: We tested the hypothesis that PRP affect both the intensity and quality of exercise-induced dyspnea in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Methods: We studied 49 patients equipped with a portable telemetric spiroergometry device during the 6-min walking test before and 4 weeks after PRP. In a first screening visit, appropriate verbal descriptors of dyspnea were chosen that patients were familiar with during daily living activities. Tidal volume, respiratory frequency, inspiratory capacity, inspiratory reserve volume (IRV) and dyspnea intensity were evaluated by a modified Borg scale every minute during the test.

Results: Qualitative descriptors of dyspnea were defined by three different sets of cluster descriptors (a-c) at the end of the exercise test, before and after PRP: a - work/effort (W/E); b - inspiratory difficulty (ID) and chest tightness (CT), and c - W/E, ID and/or CT. The three language subgroups exhibited similar lung function at baseline, and similar rating of dyspnea and ventilatory changes during exercise. The rehabilitation program shifted the Borg-IRV relationship (less Borg at any given IRV) towards the right without modifying the set of descriptors in most patients.

Conclusions: Rehabilitation programs allowed patients to tolerate a greater amount of restrictive dynamic ventilatory defect by modifying the intensity, but not necessarily the quality of dyspnea.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Dyspnea / rehabilitation*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inspiratory Reserve Volume
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / rehabilitation*
  • Tidal Volume