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Age Ageing. 1996 Jan;25(1):12-6.

Respiratory rehabilitation, exercise capacity and quality of life in chronic airways disease in old age.

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Department of Geriatric Medicine, University of Manchester, Barnes Hospital, Kingsway, Cheadle, Cheshire, UK.


Respiratory rehabilitation improves exercise capacity and quality of life in younger patients but is untried in the aged. We aimed to: (a) assess repeatability of the 6-minute walk test, factors affecting it and its relation to quality of life in elderly patients with chronic obstructive airways disease (COAD); (b) assess compliance of such patients with an intensive respiratory rehabilitation protocol; (c) pilot the assessment of the effect of respiratory rehabilitation on the 6-minute walk test in these patients. Seventeen subjects with stable, symptomatic COAD were recruited, 15 (six men), 70-89 (mean 76) years, completed the study. Mean (standard deviation) 1-second forced expiratory volume (FEV1) = 49 (5)% predicted. Six-minute walk tests were repeated single-blind, 2-10 days apart. Quality of life was measured using Guyatt respiratory questionnaire. Patients underwent 12 weeks incremental respiratory rehabilitation (x4/day step-ups, unweighed arm raises, inflating balloons). Baseline 6-minute walk was repeatable and was correlated with the log Guyatt dyspnoea score (r = 0.65, p = 0.006). In multiple regression neither age nor FEV1 predicted walk distance: body mass index, maximal expiratory mouth pressure; calorie intake. Mean (SEM) 6-minute walk distance after-rehabilitation was greater than baseline (p = 0.003). Elderly patients with COAD tolerate intensive respiratory rehabilitation and a controlled, blinded study is needed.

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