Thorax 56:827-834 doi:10.1136/thorax.56.11.827
  • BTS statement

Pulmonary rehabilitation

  1. British Thoracic Society Standards of Care Subcommittee on Pulmonary Rehabilitation
  1. Dr M D L Morgan, Department of Respiratory Medicine and Thoracic Surgery, Glenfield Hospital, Leicester LE3 9QP, UK
  • Received 18 September 2000
  • Revision requested 18 January 2001
  • Revised 26 April 2001
  • Accepted 6 July 2001

Scope, introduction and background

The aim of pulmonary rehabilitation is to reduce disability and handicap in people with lung disease and to improve their quality of life while diminishing the health care burden. The fundamental principles of rehabilitation (box 1) are widely accepted and practised unquestioningly in other medical disciplines, yet a recent survey has shown that provision of pulmonary rehabilitation services in the UK for one of the most common causes of disability is very poor.1In other countries, particularly North America, pulmonary rehabilitation has always had a more prominent role in the care of patients with chronic lung disease.2 3 The historical reasons for the poor showing in the UK are complex, but may include medical indifference to non-pharmacological management, lack of scientific evidence, poor funding, and ineffective consumer demand. Clinical guidelines also appear to be lagging behind the strength of evidence in respect of rehabilitation.4

  • The goals of rehabilitation are to reduce the symptoms, disability, and handicap and to improve functional independence in people with lung disease

  • It is assumed that optimum medical management has been achieved or continues alongside the rehabilitation process

  • The rehabilitation process incorporates a programme of physical training, disease education, nutritional, psychological, social, and behavioural intervention

  • Rehabilitation is provided by a multi-professional team with involvement of the patients' family and attention to individual needs

  • The outcome of rehabilitation for individuals and programmes should be continually observed with the appropriate measures of impairment, disability, and handicap.

Box 1 General principles of rehabilitation.

Opinions, however, are now beginning to change as the benefits are becoming clear to both clinicians and their patients. The scientific evidence is also beginning to grow as investigative tools appropriate to respiratory medicine and compatible with the original World Health Organisation outcomes of impairment, disability, and handicap have been developed.5 There is …

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