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Respiration. 2011;81(5):394-401. doi: 10.1159/000322475. Epub 2011 Feb 9.

Effect of exercise and respiratory training on clinical progression and survival in patients with severe chronic pulmonary hypertension.

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Center for Pulmonary Hypertension, Thoracic Clinic, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.



Even though specific agents for the treatment of patients with pulmonary hypertension (PH) are available, in PH patients, physical capacity and quality of life (QoL) are often restricted and survival is reduced.


This study prospectively investigated the long-term effects of respiratory and exercise training in patients with severe chronic PH regarding safety, time to clinical worsening and survival.


Fifty-eight consecutive patients with severe PH on stable disease-targeted medication received exercise and respiratory training in hospital for 3 weeks and continued at home. They were prospectively followed for 24 ± 12 months. Primary endpoints were time to clinical worsening and survival. Adverse events and changes in the 6-min walking test, QoL, WHO functional class and gas exchange were secondary endpoints and were evaluated at baseline and at weeks 3 and 15.


All patients tolerated the exercise training well without severe adverse events. In week 15, 6-min walking test results were significantly improved compared to baseline (by 84 ± 49 m, p < 0.001), as well as QoL scores, WHO functional class (from 2.9 ± 0.5 to 2.6 ± 0.6, p < 0.01), peak oxygen consumption (from 12.5 ± 3.0 to 14.6 ± 3.9 ml/min/kg, p < 0.001), heart rate at rest (from 75 ± 12 to 61 ± 18 beats/min, p < 0.001) and maximal workload (from 65 ± 21 to 80 ± 25 W, p < 0.001). Survival at 1 and 2 years was 100 and 95%, respectively. Fifteen events occurred during the follow-up.


This study indicates that exercise and respiratory training as add-on to medical treatment may improve exercise capacity and QoL, and that they have a good long-term safety in the described setting.

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