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  1. Wageck, Bruna PhD, MPhysiotherapy, BPhysiotherapy
  2. Cox, Narelle S. PhD, MAppSc(Physiotherapy), BAppSc(Physiotherapy)
  3. Lee, Joanna Y. T BHlthSc
  4. Romero, Lorena MBIT, BA
  5. Holland, Anne E. PhD, BAppSc(Physiotherapy)


Purpose: Early pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) has beneficial impacts on people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) when delivered after an exacerbation; however, program characteristics are diverse. This systematic review aimed to determine the impact of PR program characteristics (mode, length, commencement, frequency, location, and supervision) on clinical outcomes following an exacerbation of COPD.


Methods: Studies were screened from Medline, Medline in progress, Embase, CINAHL, SCOPUS, CENTRAL, and PEDro. Included studies were randomized controlled trials of early PR after an exacerbation of COPD (commenced during hospital stay or <=4 wk of hospital discharge). The primary outcomes were hospital readmissions and mortality.


Results: Thirty studies were included. Exercise training alone was delivered in 43% of studies. Program duration varied from length of inpatient stay to 12 wk. The interventions commenced as early as <=24 hr of hospitalization for acute exacerbation, and up to 2 wk after discharge. Early PR was compared to usual care, and no studies made a direct comparison of the program characteristics of interest. Program characteristics associated with reduced risk of hospital admission were commencement after hospital discharge, duration longer than 3 wk, and programs that included exercise training and education (relative risk of readmission range 0.6-0.79); however, it was not possible to determine which of these characteristics made the most important contribution. Mortality risk did not vary according to PR program characteristics.


Conclusion: Programs >3 wk, started after hospital discharge or including an educational component in addition to exercise, were most effective at reducing hospital readmissions.