Exercise in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Stewart R.I. (1985)


The original publication is available at http://www.samj.org.za


Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may incur exercise limitation by any one or combination of disturbances in breathing mechanics, oxygen transport, respiratory muscle metabolism or respiratory regulation and sensation. In spite of the increased ventilation demand/capacity ratio in these patients, the relationship between breathing mechanics, respiratory muscle fatique, the adequacy of alveolar ventilation and the development of exertional dyspnoea is neither clearly defined nor predictable from data obtained with the patient at rest. The issue of oxygen transport during exercise has been complicated by confusion between arterial hypoxia and inadequate volume of oxygen transported to the tissues, which frequently may differ qualitatively and quantitatively. The cardiac output response to exercise in patients with COPD is therefore critical in determining oxygen transport. This response is also impossible to predict from resting lung mechanics, pulmonary arterial blood pressure, arterial oxygen testing, which includes measurement of all the variables mentioned, it is impossible to define clearly the cause of exercise-induced symptoms in patients with COPD. Exercise training with and without supplemental oxygen has been shown to improve exercise tolerance in these patients, but the precise mechanism of this improvement remains obscure.

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