Pulmonary rehabilitation is a comprehensive program offering many therapeutic modalities such as breathing retraining, bronchial hygiene, exercise and psychosocial support. Another component of rehabilitation programs that is sometimes overlooked, yet equally important, is the assurance of adequate nutrition.
The typical candidate for pulmonary rehabilitation is the patient with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Studies have shown that the nutritional status of patients with COPD is compromised, often to the point of protein-calorie malnutrition, as evidenced by weight loss and depletion of fat stores and muscle mass. A variety of symptoms that patients with COPD commonly experience interfere with food procurement, preparation, intake and absorption, all of which combined with their increased metabolic demands contribute to malnutrition. Malnutrition is known to have deleterious effects on lung and immune function, putting pulmonary patients at increased risk for infections and respiratory failure.
For these reasons, nutrition is an important area to be included in the rehabilitation of patients with COPD. This can be accomplished by conducting a thorough nutritional assessment, educating patients about the consequences of concomitant lung disease and malnutrition, and counseling to control factors that place pulmonary patients at risk for malnutrition.