One in four patients with COPD referred for exercise rehabilitation are frail, but nevertheless can respond favorably to rehabilitation and their frailty can be reversed, according to a new study in Thorax.

The study measured the prevalence of frailty using a range of tests in 816 patients (average age 70 years) with stable COPD and looked at whether frailty affected the completion and outcome of rehabilitation for their condition.

A quarter of patients (209 out of 816) recruited from the Harefield Hospital Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program were found to be frail and had double the odds of not being able to complete their rehabilitation, mainly due to exacerbation of their condition and/or hospital admission.

However, the study found that frail patients who completed the eight-week rehabilitation program (55% of the 209) scored consistently better in measures of breathlessness, exercise performance, physical activity and health status compared to non-frail participants. After rehabilitation, 71 out of 115 (61%) previously frail patients no longer met the criteria for frailty.