Pulmonary Rehab and Quality of Life

Posted on: April 1, 2015

Pulmonary Rehab Can Improve Quality of Life

By Harlan R. Weinberg, MD

Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) is increasingly recognized as a significant part of treatment for Human respiratory system, artworkpeople with chronic respiratory illnesses and other lung conditions. Even for those with very impaired lung function, this specialized rehab can improve quality of life and the ability to live independently. Here, I explain how PR offers new hope to people with breathing difficulties.

What is pulmonary rehab (PR) and who benefits from it?
This program of specialized exercise and patient education helps improve activity endurance, while lessening a person’s sensation of shortness of breath. The goal is to improve quality of life and a person’s ability to function independently. Pulmonary Rehabilitation benefits those with COPD, smoking-related lung disease, asthma, and other lung disorders that progressively limit breathing, as well as people recovering from an acute exacerbation of COPD, those who are pre- or post-lung transplant, and lung cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

The goal is to improve quality of life and a person’s
ability to function independently.

What can you expect before, during and after pulmonary rehabilitation?
Your respiratory problem is first evaluated, usually by a baseline breathing test and exercise test, which document the degree of disability prior to rehab. This data leads to a personalized exercise plan that typically involves the treadmill or bike. At Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH), the eight-to-12-week program is multi-faceted: Besides the exercise component, you receive education about your illness, as well as psychosocial and nutrition support. People who still smoke are guided to smoking cessation programs. We help each person get to a better place in coping with their illness, improving their ability to function independently. When on-site sessions end, a customized maintenance program enables you to continue doing beneficial exercises at home or at a gym. NWH offers patients the option to continue using the Chappaqua Crossing exercise facility where they received respiratory therapy.

We help each person get to a better place in coping with their illness

How do you find a high-quality pulmonary rehab program?
A physician should consider referring any patient who has chronic lung illness or has been recently hospitalized for breathing difficulties, particularly for an exacerbation of COPD. When your physician refers you to a program, they should know what it offers, the quality of the professionals involved, and outcomes for patients. For example, our pulmonary rehab program at NWH is the most comprehensive outpatient PR program in the region.

What can you expect from pulmonary rehab at NWH?
Our certified Pulmonary Rehabilitation program at Chappaqua Crossing, NY, is the most sophisticated such program in the area. The program speeds recovery from pulmonary problems and improves quality of life. Supervised by a staff of specialists that includes an exercise physiologist and respiratory therapists, participants benefit from a personalized, medically-monitored exercise program consisting of three weekly one-hour sessions over three months. Patient education is a big piece of the rehab. We help people become smarter about their illness, so they make better decisions if their condition changes from its normal baseline.

Participants benefit from the program’s many special features. For those who need it, advanced NIOV (Non-Invasive Open-Ventilation) technology supports breathing during exercise. Psychosocial and nutritional counseling empower people to deal more effectively with depression and anxiety, and to better handle cognitive changes produced by low oxygen and high carbon dioxide. NWH is one of only five hospitals in the U.S. offering pulmonary rehab to children, most of whom await a lung transplant for cystic fibrosis. If we can get these children physically stronger before the transplant, we can help to enhance outcomes post-surgery. Last but certainly not least, unlike most pulmonary rehab programs with rigid class schedules, sessions at NWH are flexibly timed.  This is your rehab. You exercise when it’s convenient for you.

If you are still wondering “What is pulmonary rehab?”  or want more information associated with pulmonary rehab, contact NWHC here or call at (914) 666-1200.

Editor’s Note:
Harlan R. Weinberg is the Medical Director of the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program and Critical Care Services at Northern Westchester Hospital.

The Pulmary Rehab Program at NWH is recognized by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation.