To study the short- and long-term results of pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) given in the Helsinki University Heart and Lung Center and to understand the hospital resources used to treat severe COPD exacerbations in the city of Helsinki.
Seventy-eight inactive patients with severe COPD were recruited for a PR course; three of them did not finish the course. The course took 6–8 weeks and included 11–16 supervised exercise sessions. Using electronic medical records, we studied all COPD patients with hospital admission in the city of Helsinki in 2014, including COPD diagnosis, criteria for exacerbation, and potential exclusion/inclusion criteria for PR.
Seventy-five of the patients finished the PR course and 92% of those patients showed clinically significant improvement. Their hospital days were reduced by 54% when compared to the year before. At 1 year after the course, 53% of the patients reported that they have continued with regular exercise training. In the city of Helsinki, 437 COPD patients were treated in a hospital due to exacerbation during 2014. On the basis of their electronic medical records, 57% of them would be suitable for PR. According to a rough estimate, 10%–20% hospital days could be saved annually if PR was available to all, assuming that the PR results would be as good as those shown here.