Extra-pulmonary features in COPD patients entering rehabilitation after stratification for MRC dyspnea grade

Martijn A Spruit, Herman-Jan Pennings, Paul P Janssen, Joan D Does, Sigrid Scroyen, Marco A Akkermans, Rob Mostert, Emiel F M Wouters
Respiratory Medicine 2007, 101 (12): 2454-63
Experts have stated that referral for rehabilitation of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) becomes appropriate when these patients become aware of their disability (e.g. usually grade 3 to 5 on the Medical Research Council (MRC) dyspnea scale). However, patients with MRC dyspnea grade 1/2 may also suffer from extra-pulmonary features, such as abnormal body composition, exercise intolerance and reduced disease-specific health status. In the present study, we have studied whether and to what extent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients with MRC dyspnea grade 1/2 have extra-pulmonary features compared to patients with grade 3, 4 or 5? Pulmonary function, body composition, 6-min walking distance, peak exercise capacity, anxiety, depression and disease-specific health status have been assessed in 333 outpatients who had been referred for pulmonary rehabilitation. On average, patients with MRC dyspnea grade 1/2 had a better exercise tolerance and disease-specific health status compared to patients with grade 4 or 5. Nevertheless, grade 1/2 patients had a higher prevalence of muscle mass depletion. In addition, these patients did still have aberrant values in one or more of the aforementioned outcomes. On average, patients with MRC dyspnea grade 1/2 may clearly suffer from extra-pulmonary features, indicating the necessity to refer these patients for rehabilitation. Therefore, MRC dyspnea scale alone does not appear to be a suitable measure to identify most patients with COPD who have to be referred for rehabilitation.

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