The severity of acute exacerbations of COPD and the effectiveness of pulmonary rehabilitation

Michele Vitacca, Nicolino Ambrosino, Stefano Belli, Matteo Vigna, Elisabetta Zampogna, Maria Aliani, Giancarlo Piaggi, Mara Paneroni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and aim: Pulmonary rehabilitation is effective also in patients recovering from acute exacerbations of COPD (AECOPD). We aimed to evaluate whether levels of dyspnoea affect the outcome of pulmonary rehabilitation in patients recovering from AECOPD requiring different levels of care. Materials and methods: Retrospective data analysis of 1057 patients recovering from AECOPD requiring either hospital (Hospital group: 291) or home management (Home group: 766), undergone post AECOPD in-patient pulmonary rehabilitation. The 6-min walking distance (6MWD) test was the primary outcome, stratified by the Barthel index Dyspnoea (Bid). Data of modified Medical Research Council scale, Short Physical Performance Battery, COPD Assessment Test were also analysed, when available. Results: In overall population 6MWD improved significantly from 278 (129) to 335 (139) meters (p < 0.001). As compared to Home, 6MWD improved more in Hospital group [by 81.9 (79.6) vs 48.9 (94.4) meters respectively, p < 0.001] also when stratified by Bid levels (all: p < 0.01). In Hospital group, 6MWD improved significantly more in patients with Bid level 3 than levels 4 and 5 (p < 0.05). Hospital group showed a greater proportion of patients reaching the Minimal Clinically Important Difference for 6MWD (75.9 vs 56.7% in Hospital and Home group respectively p < 0.001). All other available outcome measures significantly (p < 0.01) improved independent of the Bid levels. There was no significant correlation between baseline severity of airflow obstruction and effect of the program. Conclusions: In-patient pulmonary rehabilitation results in clinically meaningful improvement in patients recovering from AECOPD, independent of severity of dyspnoea. However, the levels of dyspnoea severity and the care required by AECOPD influenced the magnitude of success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106465
JournalRespiratory Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Activities of daily life
  • Breathlessness
  • Exercise training
  • Health related quality of life
  • Health status
  • Physical performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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