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Who Needs Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

Your doctor may recommend pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) if you have a chronic (ongoing) lung disease. He or she also may suggest PR if you have a condition that makes it hard for you to breathe and limits your activities.

For example, you may benefit from PR if you have:

  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). COPD includes emphysema (em-fi-SE-ma) and chronic bronchitis (bron-KI-tis). The symptoms of COPD include coughing (either a dry cough or a cough that expels phlegm or mucus from your airways), wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.
  • An interstitial (in-ter-STISH-al) lung disease. This type of disease causes scarring of the lung tissue over time. This can lead to coughing, shortness of breath, and other symptoms. Examples of interstitial lung diseases include sarcoidosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Cystic fibrosis (CF). CF is an inherited disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to collect in the lungs and block the airways. CF can cause coughing and frequent respiratory infections.

Your doctor also may recommend PR before and after lung surgery to help you prepare for and recover from the surgery. For example, people who have surgery for lung cancer or COPD may benefit from PR.

PR also can help people who have muscle-wasting disorders that may affect the muscles used for breathing. One example of this type of disorder is muscular dystrophy.

PR works best if you start it when your disease is in a moderate stage. However, even people who have advanced lung disease can benefit from PR.

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Pulmonary Rehabilitation Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Pulmonary Rehabilitation, visit

August 01, 2010 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.