Nonpharmacological interventions for respiratory health in Parkinson's disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Eur J Neurol. 2021 Mar;28(3):1022-1040. doi: 10.1111/ene.14605. Epub 2020 Dec 1.


Background and purpose: Respiratory dysfunction in Parkinson's disease (PD) is often an underdiagnosed and untreated impairment associated with the disease. Clinically, a reactive approach to respiratory morbidity is taken, rather than preventative approaches that address underlying impairment/s. This systematic review identifies the current evidence to support nonpharmacological interventions to improve respiratory impairments in individuals with PD.

Methods: The relevant literature was searched using a customised and systematic strategy. Randomised and nonrandomised control trials of nonpharmacological interventions targeting respiratory outcome measures in PD were included. Outcomes of interest were respiratory morbidity and mortality, respiratory muscle strength, spirometry measures, lung volumes, peak cough flow, and perception of dyspnoea.

Results: Nonpharmacological interventions included: functional training, generalised strength training, respiratory muscle strength training, aerobic exercise, qigong, yoga, breath stacking, incentive spirometry and singing. Methodological quality of included studies varied. Meta-analyses of nonpharmacological interventions demonstrated significant effects for inspiratory muscle strength (mean difference [MD] 19.68; confidence interval [CI] 8.49, 30.87; z = 3.45; p = 0.0006; I2 = 2%), expiratory muscle strength (MD 18.97; CI 7.79, 30.14; z = 3.33; p = 0.0009; I2 = 23%) and peak expiratory flow (MD 72.21; CI 31.19, 113.24; z = 3.45; p = 0.0006; I2 = 0%). Best-evidence synthesis identified level 1 evidence supporting nonpharmacological interventions for improving peak cough flow and perceived dyspnoea. No studies were identified reporting outcomes of respiratory rate, inspiration:expiration ratio or respiratory morbidity or mortality in PD.

Conclusions: Nonpharmacological interventions improved respiratory muscle strength and peak expiratory flow in PD. Additional trials targeting respiratory dysfunction and longitudinal studies examining the relationship between respiratory dysfunction and morbidity and mortality rates in PD are required.

Keywords: Parkinson’s disease; meta-analysis; respiratory; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Breathing Exercises
  • Exhalation
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength
  • Parkinson Disease* / complications
  • Parkinson Disease* / therapy
  • Quality of Life
  • Respiratory Muscles