The prevention of exacerbations and hospital admissions is of major importance in the management of COPD. Various studies, including meta-analyses, have demonstrated that pulmonary rehabilitation programmes can reduce the risk of hospital readmission and may prevent future events. At present, the heterogeneity of studies and the small number of patients involved allows only a weak recommendation for pulmonary rehabilitation programmes to reduce exacerbations in patients at risk. This chapter speculates on the mechanisms through which these potential benefits are obtained. The targeted population, the optimal moment of pulmonary rehabilitation initiation and the multidisciplinary strategies that should be implemented are also discussed. Future studies that have been adequately designed and powered to study the effect of pulmonary rehabilitation programmes on the prevention of AEs are now needed.

Cite as: Rodrigues FM, Loeckx M, Troosters T, et al. The role of pulmonary rehabilitation in the prevention of exacerbations of chronic lung diseases. In: Burgel P-R, Contoli M, López-Campos JL, eds. Acute Exacerbations of Pulmonary Diseases (ERS Monograph). Sheffield, European Respiratory Society, 2017; pp. 224–246 [https://doi.org/10.1183/2312508X.10016916].