After spending time in hospital for treatment or surgery, patients with acute or chronic lung disease usually have pulmonary rehabilitation. This part of their treatment is important for improving their physical fitness and quality of life. Rehabilitation helps patients maintain their ability to independently carry out everyday tasks and stay socially active and, if applicable, return to work.
Patients with chronic lung diseases are particularly prone to infections and are at a greater risk of becoming less active and physically impaired. Therefore, they can benefit greatly from targeted pulmonary training that is designed to increase fitness and stamina. This particularly true in relation to the following lung diseases: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary emphysema, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension, as well as severe lung infections or lung operations.
Personalised treatment increases quality of life
The treatment concept behind pulmonary rehabilitation typically involves personalised individual and group therapies. These are provided by physiotherapists and are carried out under close medical supervision. Breathing therapies help to increase patients’ lung capacity, improve their breathing technique and strengthen their respiratory muscles. Other therapy sessions include instructions on how to effectively clear phlegm from the lungs and how to adopt positions that make it easier to breath. This is accompanied by gait training, callisthenics, exercise machines (e.g. cycling or rowing) and medical training therapy on selected devices to promote the development of strength and cardiovascular fitness.
Training can be aided by the use of inhalation treatments such as the administration of oxygen. Manual therapies, massage and heat treatments can also provide pain relief and help patients relax. The patients are actively involved in the creation of their personalised treatment plans. This collaborative process helps patients learn what actions they can take to aid their recovery or better manage their disease.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is designed to activate and promote each patient’s individual capabilities, so that they can regain maximum independence and be as active as possible in their everyday lives. Consultations and seminars provide patients with important information about their disease and teach them how to use inhalation and breathing therapy devices. Patients also learn how to continue their rehabilitation exercises at home.
Patients suffering from lung disease also receive nutritional advice, as their condition means they often have increased energy requirements. To reduce their exposure to pulmonary risk factors, patients may also receive advice on how to quit smoking and possibly also medication to help them quit.
The chronic impairment caused by lung disease often places significant stress on a person’s everyday life. For this reason, patients are also given access to psychiatric support, psychological counselling and pastoral care.
Depending on the patient’s age, it may also be necessary to re-evaluate their employment options. This is where social counselling can help: counsellors can help patients to clarify what kind of individual support they need in order to rejoin the workforce.
An overview of the two types of rehabilitation
Outpatient pulmonary rehabilitation is designed for patients who would like to continue carrying out targeted lung training exercises after their stay in hospital or at a rehabilitation clinic. Patients can only do outpatient rehabilitation if they are sufficiently fit and there is an easily accessible, specialised rehabilitation clinic near where they live.
This form of rehabilitation typically starts with a medical assessment. Once accepted into an outpatient programme, patients usually have two therapeutic sessions per week. The sessions are designed to continue improving their breathing technique and level of fitness, so that they can manage their everyday lives as independently as possible. All of these measures help to improve the patient’s quality of life.
Inpatient pulmonary rehabilitation is primarily recommended for patients who continue to be significantly impaired by their disease after they have left hospital. In addition to medical supervision by a doctor, the patients have daily physiotherapy and ergotherapy sessions that are tailored to their limited fitness and strength levels.
They also receive extensive training regarding the use of inhalation devices and other aids, as well as how best to manage their disease. The training sessions also include information about how to quit smoking and avoid infections. The patients are encouraged to integrate what they have learned into their everyday routines. On request, their family can also be informed about the treatment process and actively involved. The aim of an inpatient stay at a rehabilitation clinic is to enable the patient to breathe freely and resume their normal lives to the greatest extent possible.