Background There is good evidence that pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) provides benefit for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in terms of quality of life and daily functioning. However it is generally accepted that the benefits diminish over time.
Methods We conducted a randomised controlled parallel study of a maintenance programme, following standard PR, consisting of a two hour session of education and strength and endurance training every 3 months versus standard care. Measurements were made, at baseline (prior to a standard PR programme), at randomisation (after successful completion of a PR programme) and after 12 months, of the chronic respiratory questionnaire (CRQ), endurance shuttle walk test (ESWT), EuroQol (EQ5D), hospital anxiety and depression score (HADS) and activity questionnaires. CRQ was also completed every 3 months by post.
Results 250 (139 male) patients, mean (SD) age of 69.2 (9.2) years, FEV1 41 (16)% predicted, provided informed consent to participate in the study. The mean (95% CI) improvement in CRQ following the initial PR was 0.76 (0.59, 0.93) units. 148 patients entered the randomised part of the study. There remained a significant improvement in CRQ dyspnoea at 12 months compared to baseline for the group as a whole. However, there was no statistically significant differences detected between the intervention and control groups for the CRQ dyspnoea score, which amounted to 0.19 (-0.26, 0.64) units, or other domains of the CRQ. There was no difference in the ESTW distance between the two groups (109.1 (-100.1 to 318.2) metres) or HADS (-0.2 (-2.41,2) units). There was a higher level of self-reported activity, according to the visual analogue score of 16.2/100, in the maintenance group but not the reported metabolic equivalent (MET)-minutes per week. There was no difference in any of the CRQ measures at any of 3 monthly measurements between the intervention and control groups
Conclusion A maintenance programme of 3monthly 2 hour sessions does not improve outcomes in patients with COPD after 12 months. We cannot recommend that our maintenance programme is adopted. It is likely that a maintenance programme should commence earlier than 3 months and possibly be more intensive.