Fatigue is a distressing, complex, multidimensional sensation common in individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While fatigue negatively impacts functional performance and quality of life, there has been little study of the fatigue that affects participants in pulmonary rehabilitation programs. The purpose of this study was to examine the emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and physical dimensions of fatigue and their relationships to dyspnea, mental health, sleep, and physiologic factors.
Patients and methods
A convenience sample of 42 pulmonary rehabilitation participants with COPD completed self-report questionnaires which measured dimensions of fatigue using the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory, anxiety and depression using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and sleep quality using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Data on other clinical variables were abstracted from pulmonary rehabilitation program health records.
Almost all (95.3%) participants experienced high levels of physical fatigue. High levels of fatigue were also reported for the dimensions of reduced activity (88.1%), reduced motivation (83.3%), mental fatigue (69.9%), and general fatigue (54.5%). Close to half (42.9%) of participants reported symptoms of anxiety, while almost one quarter (21.4%) reported depressive symptoms. Age was related to the fatigue dimensions of reduced activity (ρ = 0.43, P < 0.01) and reduced motivation (ρ = 0.31, P < 0.05). Anxiety was related to reduced motivation (ρ = −0.47, P < 0.01). Fatigue was not associated with symptoms of depression, sleep quality, gender, supplemental oxygen use, smoking status, or Medical Research Council dyspnea scores.
Fatigue (particularly the physical and reduced motivation dimensions of fatigue) was experienced by almost all participants with COPD attending this pulmonary rehabilitation program. Fatigue affected greater proportions of participants than either anxiety or depression. The high prevalence of fatigue may impact on enrolment, participation, and attrition in pulmonary rehabilitation programs. Further investigation of the nature, correlates, and impact of fatigue in this population is required.