Pulmonary Rehabilitation After Hospitalization for COPD: The PROPEL Study

Posted on September 06, 2017   |   

What is Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a program of education and exercise classes that teaches you about your lungs, how to exercise and do activities with less difficulty breathing, and how to "live better” with your lung condition. Many studies have shown that people with COPD who complete a Pulmonary Rehabilitation program are less short of breath, are able to walk further, feel stronger, and have better quality of life. These health benefits are usually greater than those from any other COPD therapy.

What are some of the challenges of Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

PulmonaryRehabilitation Unfortunately, about 9 in 10 people with COPD do not complete pulmonary rehabilitation. There are many reasons. Some people do not have pulmonary rehabilitation programs close to their homes, or have difficulty getting to and from the program. Others have too much already going on in their lives to attend pulmonary rehabilitation. There is usually a co-pay since insurance does not cover the full cost of pulmonary rehabilitation.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation After Hospitalization for COPD: The PROPEL Study

With the help of many people and organizations, the COPD Foundation hopes to develop and test a “next generation” pulmonary rehabilitation program (NextGen Pulmonary Rehabilitation). If it is shown that such a program can reduce hospitalizations and prolong life, it may be possible that similar programs could be covered by insurance and become more widely available. We are planning the PROPEL Study to evaluate NextGen Pulmonary Rehabilitation and are trying to find out whether people with COPD would be willing to join. We are requesting funding from the National Institutes of Health and need to provide evidence that a sufficient number of people would volunteer for the study.


People would be eligible whether or not they have previously participated in Pulmonary Rehabilitation. The PROPEL Study will specifically involve people who have been hospitalized with a COPD-related illness.


The study will ask people to agree to participate in a Pulmonary Rehabilitation program starting a few weeks after hospital discharge and lasting about a year, with sessions occurring an average of 2 times a week for 3 months, and then 2 times a month for 9 months.

People with COPD who join the PROPEL Study will be also asked to attend three evaluation sessions during the year, each lasting about half a day. In addition, you would participate in phone interviews every three months. These evaluation sessions and phone interviews are needed to measure the health effects of the NextGen Pulmonary Rehabilitation program.



  • The rehabilitation program would be provided at no charge
  • Transportation would be provided if needed
  • A modest compensation would be provided for the time spent participating in evaluation sessions and phone interviews
  • Each patient’s personal doctor would be involved in medical treatment decisions


Please complete the survey regarding the PROPEL Study here.

Please note that your survey responses do not obligate you to participate in the PROPEL Study.


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  • How can people find a pulmonary rehabilitation program near home?
    • J Krishnan,

      I am not sure if you are asking as it pertains to this study or just in general.

      If you are interested for yourself outside of this study you will need a prescription from your doctor. Most likely your doctor will know however I would do my own research. I learned the hard way that not all programs are created equal. Google Pulmonary Rehabilitation your town, your state, it will list facilities in your area. Some have a AACVPR certification which might be an indicator that it has a better program.

    • Rehab is for life (in more ways than one). Building the habits and staying motivated isn't always easy. More than once my pulmo has commented that most of her patients either don't finish PR or don't continue with any kind of a maintenance program. It isn't easy but it is so important. PR (and beyond) has been my best medicine. Please seriously consider this study; free rehab, free transportation to rehab, this is a win win for anyone that participates.
  • I would be very interested in this, however, the survey is closed.
    • I find this to be interesting. A local hospital sent me information about that study.
      However,there was no mention of COPD..only on the postcard was the number to call,to see if you qualify.When I say oxygen most studies say no.
  • I am a Pulmonary Rehab attendee (or was until Covid19 shut it down)and it is fantastic. Medicare will cover a certain number of sessions. I think it was 36 but my adviser told me not to use them all in case I had to rejoin the program. I used 24 sessions (8 weeks) and then joined the same program at the same place but you the fee is $25 per month. Good deal because this rehab is owned by a hospital and staffed by hospital staff. It also includes a Cardio rehab program. I was into my 5th year of going until Covid shut it down and they say they hope to eventually reopen it. My stamina and body tone has gone downhill in the 5 months it has been closed. But what I miss most of all is the social gatherings and friends I had made at the rehab. As for finding one, check with your local hospital or clinic and see if they can guide you to one. Good luck.
    • I am replying to my own post to add some material. The program I am in is a Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Class which means exercise. It is run by a local hospital and staffed with technicians and RNs as well as some specialists. The run 3 phases - Phase 1 is in the hospital as you are being treated. Phase II is when you begin the Rehab program and Phase 3 is when you attend as a fee paying customer for up to 5 days per week. We call it the old folks home because most of the long timers have been there for many years and death is when they leave. One of my friends died a few days ago at 88 and he had been going to rehab for over 25 years. Many have been attending 15-20 years. A few are below Medicare age and they are the ones who usually do not stay for Phase III. But I guess I thought these type programs were available all over the country. I am getting on the phone now to see when they plan on restarting this one.....LOL
  • Moakie, my guess is that a lot of those younger people probably joined gyms and exercised with the rest of the world. I've always thought that PR programs should do the following: push each patient hard enough to be sob and then teach them how to recover from being sob (using both information about O2 saturation levels and why we become sob to help make the lesson stick); show each patient how to continuously push themselves so they continue to maintain or make progress independently; encourage each patient to exercise independently at home or in a gym at the conclusion of the program. I've worked out at gyms for the last 17 years and have found good friends and great support wherever I've been. Granted you don't have the health care professionals right there, but very few of us are so frail or sick that we need that support. Just MHO........:):)
    • Amen Jean. At the rehab they just tell us to push it to the point where we think it hurts and then quit. I agree that the young guns go to the local gyms to do their excercising. During the Virus with the Rehab closed I have been walking around our subdivision but after nearly getting sideswiped a couple of times I limited my walking to the cul-de-sac I live on. I use my Rollator walker to carry the oxygen tank or portable concentrator and go until my hips hurt so bad I can't go any more. It is still not that much distance but it beats nothing. Normally I don't use that walker at all but just carrying a tank now requires something to help me support the tank like a walker or a basket or (best of all) a electric cart in Walmart..................except I don't go in Walmart anymore for a while......boo hoo.