Estimating the effectiveness of pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD exacerbations: reduction of hospital inpatient days during the following year

Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2017 Sep 22:12:2763-2769. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S144571. eCollection 2017.


Aims: To study the short- and long-term results of pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) given in the Helsinki University Heart and Lung Center and to understand the hospital resources used to treat severe COPD exacerbations in the city of Helsinki.

Materials and methods: Seventy-eight inactive patients with severe COPD were recruited for a PR course; three of them did not finish the course. The course took 6-8 weeks and included 11-16 supervised exercise sessions. Using electronic medical records, we studied all COPD patients with hospital admission in the city of Helsinki in 2014, including COPD diagnosis, criteria for exacerbation, and potential exclusion/inclusion criteria for PR.

Results: Seventy-five of the patients finished the PR course and 92% of those patients showed clinically significant improvement. Their hospital days were reduced by 54% when compared to the year before. At 1 year after the course, 53% of the patients reported that they have continued with regular exercise training. In the city of Helsinki, 437 COPD patients were treated in a hospital due to exacerbation during 2014. On the basis of their electronic medical records, 57% of them would be suitable for PR. According to a rough estimate, 10%-20% hospital days could be saved annually if PR was available to all, assuming that the PR results would be as good as those shown here.

Conclusions: The study showed that in a real-world setting, PR is efficient when measured by saved hospital days in severe COPD. Half of the patients could be motivated to continue exercising on their own.

Keywords: COPD; COPD health care costs; physical inactivity; pulmonary rehabilitation; severe exacerbation.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Exercise Therapy* / economics
  • Exercise Therapy* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Resources* / economics
  • Health Resources* / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospital Costs
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay*
  • Lung / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Patient Admission*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / economics
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / psychology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / rehabilitation*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Respiratory Therapy / economics
  • Respiratory Therapy / methods*
  • Respiratory Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome