The pulmonary rehabilitation effect on long covid-19 syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Physiother Res Int. 2024 Apr;29(2):e2077. doi: 10.1002/pri.2077.


Objectives: This systematic review and meta-analysis aims to evaluate the efficacy of pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) in improving dyspnea, fatigue, physical activity, quality of life, anxiety and depression in patients with Long COVID-19 (LC). The impact of PR on LC and a comparison of face-to-face and telerehabilitation approaches was explored.

Methods: This systematic review and meta-analysis followed PRISMA guidelines and was registered in PROSPERO. A literature search included PubMed, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library until January 2023. No language filters were applied. Randomized controlled trials, non-randomized controlled trials, and observational studies were included. The risk of bias was assessed using appropriate tools. Descriptive analysis and meta-analysis were performed. Forest plots presented results. Statistical analyses were conducted using the Metafor Package in R v.3.4.2.

Results/findings: This systematic review and meta-analysis included 16 studies on PR in LC patients. A total of 1027 adults were included. The studies varied in design, with seven observational studies, three quasi-experimental studies, and six randomized controlled trials. Dyspnea, physical function, quality of life, psychological state, and fatigue were assessed as outcomes. The review found that pulmonary rehabilitation had a significant positive effect on dyspnea, physical function, quality of life (both global and physical domain), anxiety, and depression. However, the effect on fatigue was not significant. Heterogeneity was observed in some analyses, and publication bias was found in certain outcomes. Age and study design were identified as potential moderators. Both face-to-face and telerehabilitation interventions improved the studied outcomes, with only differences in the physical domain of quality of life favoring the face-to-face group.

Implications on physiotherapy practice: PR improved dyspnea, physical function, quality of life, and psychological state in LC patients, but not fatigue. Face-to-face and telerehabilitation have similar effects, except for physical quality of life.

Keywords: dyspnea; long COVID-19; pulmonary rehabilitation; quality of life; telerehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Dyspnea
  • Fatigue
  • Humans
  • Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome
  • Quality of Life*