Measuring unsupported arm lifts as an outcome in pulmonary rehabilitation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients

Debapriya Datta, Richard L ZuWallack
Chronic Respiratory Disease 2013, 10 (3): 159-63
Pulmonary rehabilitation includes upper and lower extremity exercise training. While validated tests such as the six-minute walk distance (6MWD) and shuttle walk tests are available to evaluate the effectiveness of lower extremity training, the optimal method of evaluating the effectiveness of upper extremity training has not been determined. This study evaluates the potential utility of unsupported arm lifts (UALs) testing as an outcome measurement for pulmonary rehabilitation. Records of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients who underwent outpatient pulmonary rehabilitation at our institution were reviewed. Outcomes assessed before and immediately after the intervention included 6MWD, the self-administered Chronic Respiratory Questionnaire (CRQ-SA), and UALs. For the latter, the patient repeatedly raises a wooden dowel from thigh to arm level, with the number of repetitions per minute used as the outcome. Changes in variables from pre- to post-pulmonary rehabilitation were analyzed using paired t test. Pearson correlation coefficients were used to evaluate associations. Of the 241 patients, 51% were male. Mean age was 69 ± 9 years, body mass index was 28 ± 7 kg/m(2), and forced expiratory volume in 1 second was 50 ± 20 percent-predicted. All studied variables increased significantly post-pulmonary rehabilitation: the 6MWD by 45 ± 50 m (effect size 0.49), the CRQ-SA total score by 0.84 ± 0.86 units (effect size 0.89), and UAL by 12 ± 13 lifts/minute (effect size 0.75; p < 0.0001 for all). As a measure of upper extremity exercise capacity, UAL appears to be responsive to the comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation intervention. Using effect sizes, the degree of improvement appears to be between that of 6MWD and CRQ-SA. UAL may be a useful outcome assessment for pulmonary rehabilitation in COPD patients.

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