Clinic helps with COPD, other chronic respiratory diseases

Contributing ColumnistMarch 16, 2014 

McCormick, James UKhealth

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Chronic lung disease is the No. 3 killer in Kentucky, and No. 5 for all Americans. Pulmonary rehabilitation has been shown to help improve the quality of life for individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD; interstitial pulmonary fibrosis; pulmonary hypertension; and other diseases of the lung.

What, exactly, is pulmonary rehabilitation? It is a multidisciplinary and comprehensive program for patients whose chronic respiratory diseases have decreased their ability to participate in daily life activities. It helps patients understand their disease better, self-manage common complications and know when to call for help.

According to the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, patients in a certified pulmonary rehab program report decreased breathlessness and fatigue, increased exercise tolerance and enhanced quality of life. Patients who complete the program also often report fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, which are commonly associated with chronic lung diseases.

At UK HealthCare's Cardiopulmonary Rehab Clinic, patients work with a team of physicians, nurses, exercise physiologists and dietitians to create and implement a treatment plan specific to the needs and goals of the individual. The program can help restore strength and endurance, reduce disease symptoms such as shortness of breath, and increase understanding of disease self-management.

A visit to our clinic typically involves an initial assessment, exercise training, self-management education, psychosocial support and a final outcomes assessment. Duration of the program varies based on individual goals and progress, but usually requires two or three two-hour sessions per week for eight to 12 weeks.

Many health insurance plans cover pulmonary rehabilitation programs, as it's been demonstrated that patients who participate in such programs actually end up needing less "health care" in the long run.

Our patient care team facilitates therapeutic support among participants, their family members and friends and creates a milieu where people learn from one another. Group discussions led by experts share information about the disease process, share breathing techniques and nutritional support and are an excellent complement to our supervised exercise training. Improvements in patient function can be sustained after completion of the program through Optimal Health Wellness training offered at our clinic.

If you have a chronic respiratory disease or care for someone who does, call us at (859) 323-5424 to learn more about our program.

Dr. James McCormick is the medical director for the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Clinic at UK HealthCare.

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