Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) could be a valuable addition to comprehensive therapy in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to a new study presented at the 2015 American Thoracic Society International Conference.

The study included 40 patients with OSA who were randomly assigned to either the PR group (n=20) or the control group (n=20), though 5 patients did not complete PR. All patients involved in the study received CPAP therapy as their apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) was higher than 15.

The PR group had 6 weeks of 60-minute individual rehabilitation sessions twice a week. The sessions consisted of education, exercise training, breathing retraining, respiratory muscle training, and oropharyngeal exercises. At baseline and then after 6 weeks of CPAP-only use or CPAP with the PR, researchers tracked a number of parameters, including pulmonary function, AHI, body mass index (BMI), percentage of body fat; and neck, waist, and hip circumferences.

Although OSA severity was significantly decreased in both groups after the treatment, significant reduction of BMI, neck, waist and hip circumferences was confirmed only in the PR group. That same group also had an improvement in pulmonary function. Patients in both groups had decreased body fat, although body fat loss was higher in the PR group.

“In our study with 40 newly diagnosed OSA patients and a control group, pulmonary rehabilitation helped reduce body mass index, certain body circumferences, and improve pulmonary function,” said researcher Katerina Neumannova, MSc, PhD, Palacky University, Faculty of Physical Culture, Olomouc, Czech Republic.

“Patients with OSA can benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation treatment,” Neumannova said. “We can determine on a patient-by-patient basis which patients would benefit most from pulmonary rehabilitation based on their individual disease and clinical judgement.”