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Pulmonary Rehab Suggested for Recovering COVID-19 Patients

Posted Date: 12/21/2021
The Pulmonary Rehabilitation Departments at Mon Health continue to make a difference in the lives of pulmonary patients, especially those recovering from COVID-19.

Dr. Allison Cihla, Pulmonologist and Medical Director of the Pulmonology Department at Mon Health Preston Memorial Hospital has been treating recovering COVID-19 patients in her office and in the Pulmonary Rehab Department.

“Patients recovering from COVID-19 can experience significant respiratory symptoms. We are unsure of the long-term consequences on the lungs and pulmonary function,” Dr. Cihla said. “Pulmonary rehabilitation helps these patients manage their symptoms and allows them to gain back some control of their lives.”

COVID-19 affects many organs in the patient’s body, but the most prominent damage is to the lungs. The type of pneumonia often associated with COVID-19 can cause long-standing damage to the tiny air sacs in the lungs. The resulting scar tissue can lead to long-term breathing problems.

Kristi Gannon, Nurse Manager of the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Department at Mon Health Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital explains that even after recovery, COVID-19 patients may have a persistent shortness of breath, dry cough, or other side effects. Those who had to be placed on a ventilator may have more severe symptoms. A pulmonary evaluation and rehabilitation can help with the patient’s recovery.

“Our pulmonary rehabilitation provides a comprehensive approach to patient care. It includes education about pulmonary diseases, lifestyle changes, incorporation of mild physical activity, and handling the psychological effects of a patient’s condition. All of this is even more important for our COVID-19 patients,” said Gannon.

The pulmonary program can range from eight to twelve weeks. During that time, each patient will undergo one-on-one, supervised exercise therapy to improve respiratory muscle conditioning, breathing retraining and cardiovascular fitness. Exercise will be tailored to the patient’s specific needs and abilities. Types of exercise may include walking, stair climbing, equipment-based aerobic exercise, stretching maneuvers, strength conditioning and respiratory muscle training.

“As in any recovery, other helpful strategies will help the patient recover sooner. Eating healthy, getting plenty of rest, avoiding smoking and vaping, and exercising can give the patient a new lease on life,” Gannon noted. “Pulmonary rehab improves the quality of life for our patients. Our program is nationally certified.”

“Pulmonary rehab is very beneficial for patients with pulmonary impairment,” said Dr. Roger Abrahams, Pulmonologist at Mon Health Pulmonary Care. “Pulmonary rehab will not only improve your lung function or lung function test, but it will improve your exercise capacity and reduce your shortness of breath as well as the anxiety associated with shortness of breath. I have referred many patients to pulmonary rehab over the years and it is rare for a patient to tell me they did not benefit from the program. After a pulmonary rehab program, a patient should be able to engage in more physical activity than before the program.”

To learn more about the pulmonary rehabilitation programs at Mon Health, visit Mon Health Medical Center, Mon Health Preston Memorial Hospital, and Mon Health Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital.

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