Role of intermittent hypoxia in the treatment of bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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Purpose of review

The purpose of this review is to describe the impact that exposure to intermittent hypoxic training (IHT) could have on bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This is of particular interest, as an increasing number of patients suffer from severe symptoms of bronchial asthma and COPD and desire more effective and efficient treatment options with fewer side effects.

Recent findings

Exposure to IHT has been shown to raise baroreflex sensitivity to normal levels and to selectively increase hypercapnic ventilatory response, total exercise time, total haemoglobin mass, and lung diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide in COPD patients. However, evidence proving that IHT leads to health benefit effects in bronchial asthma patients has not been produced by recent literature.


Recent research outlines the value of IHT as a therapeutic strategy for the treatment of COPD patients, leading to more efficient ventilation. Additionally, IHT might represent an attractive method to complement the known beneficial effects of exercise training and to rebalance early autonomic dysfunction in COPD patients. Future research examining the potential risks and benefits of IHT could pave the way for the development of new therapeutic approaches for patients suffering from bronchial asthma and COPD.

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