Background: Exercise training as a component of pulmonary rehabilitation improves health-related quality of life (HRQL) and exercise capacity in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, some individuals may have difficulty performing exercise at an adequate intensity. Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) during exercise improves exercise capacity and dyspnoea during a single exercise session. Consequently, NIV during exercise training may allow individuals to exercise at a higher intensity, which could lead to greater improvement in exercise capacity, HRQL and physical activity.
Objectives: To determine whether NIV during exercise training (as part of pulmonary rehabilitation) affects exercise capacity, HRQL and physical activity in people with COPD compared with exercise training alone or exercise training with sham NIV.
Search methods: We searched the following databases between January 1987 and November 2013 inclusive: The Cochrane Airways Group specialised register of trials, AMED, CENTRAL, CINAHL, EMBASE, LILACS, MEDLINE, PEDro, PsycINFO and PubMed.
Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials that compared NIV during exercise training versus exercise training alone or exercise training with sham NIV in people with COPD were considered for inclusion in this review.
Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently selected trials for inclusion in the review, extracted data and assessed risk of bias. Primary outcomes were exercise capacity, HRQL and physical activity; secondary outcomes were training intensity, physiological changes related to exercise training, dyspnoea, dropouts, adverse events and cost.
Main results: Six studies involving 126 participants who completed the study protocols were included. Most studies recruited participants with severe to very severe COPD (mean forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) ranged from 26% to 48% predicted). There was an increase in percentage change peak and endurance exercise capacity with NIV during training (mean difference in peak exercise capacity 17%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 7% to 27%, 60 participants, low-quality evidence; mean difference in endurance exercise capacity 59%, 95% CI 4% to 114%, 48 participants, low-quality evidence). However, there was no clear evidence of a difference between interventions for all other measures of exercise capacity. The results for HRQL assessed using the St George's Respiratory Questionnaire do not rule out an effect of NIV (total score mean 2.5 points, 95% CI -2.3 to 7.2, 48 participants, moderate-quality evidence). Physical activity was not assessed in any study. There was an increase in training intensity with NIV during training of 13% (95% CI 1% to 27%, 67 participants, moderate-quality evidence), and isoload lactate was lower with NIV (mean difference -0.97 mmol/L, 95% CI -1.58mmol/L to -0.36 mmol/L, 37 participants, moderate-quality evidence). The effect of NIV on dyspnoea or the number of dropouts between interventions was uncertain, although again results were imprecise. No adverse events and no information regarding cost were reported. Only one study blinded participants, whereas three studies used blinded assessors. Adequate allocation concealment was reported in four studies.
Authors' conclusions: The small number of included studies with small numbers of participants, as well as the high risk of bias within some of the included studies, limited our ability to draw strong evidence-based conclusions. Although NIV during lower limb exercise training may allow people with COPD to exercise at a higher training intensity and to achieve a greater physiological training effect compared with exercise training alone or exercise training with sham NIV, the effect on exercise capacity is unclear. Some evidence suggests that NIV during exercise training improves the percentage change in peak and endurance exercise capacity; however, these findings are not consistent across other measures of exercise capacity. There is no clear evidence that HRQL is better or worse with NIV during training. It is currently unknown whether the demonstrated benefits of NIV during exercise training are clinically worthwhile or cost-effective.