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Background: The idea of self-management is to teach patients how to carry out the activities of daily living optimally in the face of their physiological impairment, and to prevent or decrease the severity of exacerbations by means of life style adaptation. In chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) the value of self-management education is not clear. This review was undertaken to clarify the effectiveness of self-management programmes in COPD.
Methods: A search was made of the Cochrane Airways Group trial registers, Medline, reference lists, and abstracts of medical conferences for controlled trials of self-management education in patients with COPD. Two reviewers independently assessed each paper for methodological quality and extracted the data.
Results: The reviewers included 12 articles describing eight randomised controlled trials and one controlled clinical trial in which self-management education was compared with usual care. The studies assessed a broad spectrum of outcome measures with different follow up times so meta-analysis could not be undertaken. Self-management education had no effect on hospital admissions, emergency room visits, days lost from work, and lung function. Inconclusive results were observed on health related quality of life, COPD symptoms, and use of healthcare facilities such as doctor and nurse visits. Self-management education reduced the need for rescue medication and led to increased use of courses of oral steroids and antibiotics for respiratory symptoms.
Conclusions: Insufficient data were obtained to make recommendations because of the wide variation in outcome measures used and other limitations to generalisations in the current published literature. Further research in this area is needed.