European Respiratory Journal vol:38 issue:3 pages:702-712
Recent evidence indicates that acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease aggravate the extrapulmonary consequences of the disease. Skeletal muscle dysfunction, a sustained decrease in exercise tolerance, enhanced symptoms of depression and fatigue are reported. Avoidance of physical activities is likely to be a key underlying mechanism and increases the risk of new exacerbations. Pulmonary rehabilitation is an intervention targeting these systemic consequences. Exercise strategies need to be adapted to the increased feelings of dyspnoea and fatigue. This review aims to describe the systemic consequences of acute exacerbations and compiles evidence for the feasibility and effectiveness of different rehabilitation strategies to counteract these consequences during and/or immediately after the acute phase of the exacerbation. Resistance training and neuromuscular electrical stimulation have been applied safely in frail, hospitalised patients and have the potential to prevent muscle atrophy. Comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation, including general exercise training, can be implemented immediately after the exacerbation, leading to a reduction in hospital admissions and an increase in exercise tolerance and quality of life. Self-management strategies play a crucial role in changing disease-related health behaviour and preventing hospital admissions.