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West J Med. May 1991; 154(5): 591–597.
PMCID: PMC1002840
Reversing disability of irreversible lung disease.
B. L. Tiep
Casa Colina Hospital for Rehabilitative Medicine, Pomona, California, CA 91767.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a comprehensive multifaceted team approach for integrating medical management, coping skills, self-management techniques, and exercise reconditioning. It provides patients with chronic lung disease the ability to adapt and live full and nearly normal lives. These changes are possible because the overall disability includes significant reversible components: Patients have bronchospasm, infection, and cor pulmonale; they respond to progressively impaired lungs by progressive inactivity, leading to physical deconditioning. Both factors contribute to dyspnea. Because patients naturally fear dyspnea, they panic easily. During panic, their work of breathing may increase and respiratory failure may result. Pulmonary rehabilitation provides good medical management; provides exercises to increase strength, endurance, and tolerance to dyspnea; and trains patients in panic control. These programs have not been shown to lengthen life span or improve static lung function. They increase exercise performance and render patients functional, independent, and subject to fewer hospital admissions. Pulmonary rehabilitation is the only approach to chronic lung disease short of lung transplantation that improves the long-term outlook for these patients.
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