Dr. Jon Freels, the program's medical director and a specialist in pulmonary and critical care medicine, addressed the group during the luncheon and discussed the different types of lung diseases and long-term treatment options available.
"Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can enter a vicious cycle of shortness of breath leading to inactivity that further enhances their shortness of breath. This physical manifestation of the disease can steal mental drive, ambition, and at times even hope. Our pulmonary rehabilitation program uses a multi-disciplinary approach to aid the patient in all facets of their disease," said Freels.
According to Freels, studies evaluating the impact of pulmonary rehabilitation showed an association with improved lung capacity during exertion and quality of life while decreasing the sensation of labored breathing. In addition, smaller studies have shown a decrease in hospital re-admission and mortality among patients who received rehabilitation after an exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a therapy program that combines education and exercise to improve lung function. Benefits of a rehabilitation program include lower blood pressure, decreased shortness of breath and an improved activity level. It is recommended for patients with a variety of conditions affecting the lungs, including:
COPD: COPD refers to two lung diseases--chronic bronchitis and emphysema--characterized by obstruction to airflow that interferes with normal breathing.
Asthma: Asthma is a reversible obstructive lung disease, caused by increased reaction of the airways to various stimuli. It is a chronic inflammatory condition and can be a life-threatening disease if not properly managed.
Emphysema: Emphysema is a long-term, progressive lung disease that primarily causes shortness of breath. This disease damages the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs, making them unable to completely deflate, and are therefore unable to fill with fresh air to ensure adequate oxygen supply to the body.
Chronic bronchitis: Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the main airways in the lungs that continues for a long period or keeps coming back.
Lung cancer: Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells (cancer) in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages. Lumps of cancer cells (tumors) then form and disrupt the lung, making it difficult to function properly.
Tennessee is the fourth leading consumer of tobacco products, which is the main causal agent for COPD. Typically, patients will attend pulmonary rehabilitation in the Maury Regional Heart Center twice per week for a period of several weeks; however, plans vary for each patient based on his/her condition. The pulmonary rehabilitation staff includes licensed respiratory therapists, a registered nurse trained in critical care, an exercise physiologist and a registered dietitian.
In addition to a closely monitored exercise program, the staff instructs patients on proper breathing techniques for their medical condition, infection control, nutrition and weight management, proper use of medication and much more.