A senior lecturer at Kingston University is embarking on a new research programme that could improve the quality of life for thousands of respiratory disease sufferers. Dr Rachel Garrod is investigating the impact of pulmonary rehabilitation on patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD causes an obstruction of the airways making it difficult for sufferers to breathe. There are currently 600,000 people in the United Kingdom with COPD.
Dr Garrod, who teaches physiotherapy at the University’s Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, run jointly with St George’s Hospital Medical School, has been awarded £82,750 by the Health Foundation. The Health Foundation is an independent charity that aims to improve patient care in the United Kingdom. She is investigating how the extremes of COPD can be treated through pulmonary rehabilitation – a package of physical exercise and educational support designed to minimise the disease’s impact.
Dr Garrod is also aiming to predict patient response to pulmonary rehabilitation using a scale ranked according to their level of breathlessness during exercise. The research findings could help general practitioners decide the right course of treatment for patients. “We already know that this kind of rehabilitation can lead in some cases to an increase in exercise tolerance, a reduction in breathlessness and the ability to perform daily activities more easily,” Dr Garrod said. “But we know very little about whether it helps people with very mild or very severe forms of the disease because up until now they have been considered too well or too ill to be treated.”
Dr Garrod will evaluate the response to pulmonary rehabilitation of housebound patients and those experiencing some limitations, who are not currently being referred for hospital treatment. She believes her year-long research programme could change the practice for health professionals treating patients with COPD. “If the very severe cases show an improvement following the rehabilitation, GPs and hospitals would have to become more active in arranging transport for patients to be brought in for treatment,” she said. “In addition, if we find that treating very mild patients at an earlier stage actually slows down their deterioration, new strategies could be developed for them too.”