Better Breathing with Computer Program

Eileen G. Collins, Ph.D., of the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois and UIC and colleagues designed a randomized, controlled trial, the first of its kind, to test whether a computer program could decrease the extent of air trapping during exercise and thus improve the results of rehabilitation in COPD patients.

A total of 64 patients were randomized to three groups— exercise alone, exercise plus ventilation feedback (VF) or VF alone. VF patients had their breathing monitored by a computer program which provided them with real-time biofeedback and set individualized goals, presented graphically on a screen in front of them. Patients could see their current speed and depth of breathing in relation to the set goal, encouraging them to inhale more slowly and exhale more completely in order to achieve the goal.

At baseline, the groups all performed similarly in exercise tolerance tests. Comparing all the groups, those that underwent a regimen of exercise and ventilation feedback showed significant improvements in exercise duration, and those who underwent exercise alone fared much better than those who only received ventilation feedback. Because of the multiple comparisons between groups, the exercise-plus-ventilation feedback group did not attain statistically significant improvements over the exercise-only group, but the results indicated a strong trend in that direction. Exercise-induced hyperinflation was also reduced in patients randomized to exercise-plus-ventilation feedback over either program by itself. Duration of exercise tolerance in the exercise-plus-ventilation feedback group also showed a significant trend toward improvement.

If patients can be taught to translate these breathing techniques from the computer game to activities of daily living, they could potentially greatly improve their quality of life. “We are conducting a follow-up clinical trial to compare computerized breathing feedback with other unique methods of pulmonary rehabilitation,” said Collins.

MEDICA.de; Source: American Thoracic Society