ObjectivesTo investigate superiority of a telerehabilitation program for Covid-19 MESHD
(TERECO) over no rehabilitation with regard to functional exercise capacity, lower-limb muscle strength (LMS), pulmonary function, health-related quality of life (HRQOL), and perceived dyspnoea MESHD
DesignParallel-group randomised controlled-trial with 1:1 block-randomisation.
SettingThree major hospitals from Jiangsu and Hubei provinces, China.
Participants120 Covid-19 MESHD
survivors with modified Medical Research Council (mMRC) dyspnoea MESHD
score of 2-3 who had been discharged from hospital were randomised. 61 were allocated to the control group and 59 to the TERECO group.
InterventionThe control group received educational instructions. The TERECO group participated in a 6-week home-based, pulmonary rehabilitation program delivered via smartphone and monitored with chest-worn heart rate telemetry. Exercise types comprised breathing control and thoracic expansion, aerobic exercise, and LMS exercise.
OutcomesPrimary outcome was 6-minute walking distance (6MWD) in metres. Secondary outcomes were LMS measured as squat time in seconds; pulmonary function assessed by spirometry with parameters being forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), FEV1/FVC, maximum voluntary ventilation (MVV), and peak expiratory flow; HRQOL measured with SF-12 physical component score (PCS) and mental component score (MCS); and mMRC dyspnoea MESHD
, favourable outcome (no dyspnoea MESHD
). Outcomes were assessed at 6 weeks (post-treatment) and 28 weeks (follow-up).
Results120 patients were randomised, 15 (12.5%) were lost to follow-up at study endpoint. No serious adverse events occurred. 38 participants in the TERECO group complied with the exercise protocol (64.41% of randomized). The adjusted between-group difference in change in 6MWD from baseline was 65.45 metres (95% CI 43.8-87.1, p<0.001) at post-treatment and 68.62 metres (95% CI 46.39-90.85, p<0.001) at follow-up. Treatment effects for LMS were 20.12 seconds (95% CI 12.34-27.9, p<0.001) post-treatment and 22.23 seconds (95% CI 14.24-30.21, p<0.001) at follow-up. No group differences were found for lung function apart from post-treatment MVV (10.57 litres/minute, 95% CI 0.26-17.88, p=0.005). Increase in SF-12 PCS was greater in the TERECO group with treatment effects estimated as 3.79 (95% CI 1.24-6.35, p=0.004) at post-treatment and 2.69 (95% CI 0.06-5.32, p=0.045) at follow-up. No significant between-group differences were found for improvements in SF-12 MCS. At post-treatment 90.4% endorsed a favourable outcome for mMRC dyspnoea MESHD
in the TERECO group vs. 61.7% in control (adjusted RR 1.46, 1.17-1.82, p=0.001).
ConclusionsThis trial demonstrated superiority of TERECO over no rehabilitation for 6MWD, LMS, and SF-12 PCS. We found no persistent effects on pulmonary function, SF-12 MCS, and perceived dyspnoea MESHD
Trial registrationChinese Clinical Trial Registry: ChiCTR2000031834, 11 Apr 2020, URL: http://www.chictr.org.cn/showproj.aspx?proj=52216
KEY POINTSO_ST_ABSWhat is already knownC_ST_ABSMany Covid-19 MESHD
survivors discharged from hospital have reduced exercise capacity, impaired pulmonary function MESHD
, muscle weakness MESHD
, and reduced quality of life, all of which might be addressed with pulmonary rehabilitation.
However, evidence on effective pulmonary rehabilitation measures for this population is currently lacking. As delivery of conventional rehabilitation services is furthermore limited due to pandemic control measures, telerehabilitation programs represent a possible alternative.
What the study addsWe developed a telerehabilitation program for Covid-19 MESHD
survivors (TERECO program) that is delivered via smartphone and can be carried out at home.
Our study suggests that TERECO was safe and participants of the TERECO program had improved exercise capacity, lower-limb muscle strength, and physical quality of life. No relevant group differences were found for lung function, self-reported breathlessness, and mental quality of life.
The TERECO program is inexpensive and could be implemented on a large scale to improve physical health of Covid-19 MESHD
survivors after discharge from hospital.