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Study found that employing manual chest physiotherapy does not appear to affect outcome, in terms of longer-term quality of life, in patients hospitalised for exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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J Cross 1,*, F Elender 1, G Barton 2, A Clark 2, L Shepstone 2, A Blyth 1, M Bachmann 2, I Harvey 2

1 School of Allied Health Professions, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
2 School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
* Corresponding author Email: j.cross@uea.ac.uk

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To estimate the effect, if any, of manual chest physiotherapy (MCP) administered to patients hospitalised with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbation on both disease-specific and generic health-related quality of life. To compare the health service costs for those receiving and not receiving MCP.

DESIGN

A pragmatic, randomised controlled trial powered for equivalence. It was not possible to blind participants, clinicians or research staff to study arm allocation during the intervention.

SETTING

Four UK hospitals in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn and Liverpool.

PARTICIPANTS

526 participants aged 34-91 years were recruited between November 2005 and April 2008; of these, 372 provided evaluable data for the primary outcome. All persons hospitalised with COPD exacerbation and evidence of sputum production on examination were eligible for the trial providing there were no contraindications to performing MCP.

INTERVENTIONS

Participants were allocated to either MCP or no MCP on an intention-to-treat (ITT) basis. However, active cycle of breathing techniques (ACBT) was used in both arms. Participants allocated to the intervention were guided to perform ACBT while the physiotherapist delivered MCP. Participants allocated to the control arm received instruction on ACBT only.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES

The primary outcome was COPD-specific quality of life, measured using the St George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) at 6 months post randomisation. The European Quality of Life-5 Dimensions (EQ-5D) questionnaire was used to calculate the quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gain associated with MCP compared with no MCP. Secondary physiological outcome measures were also used.

RESULTS

Of the 526 participants, 261 were allocated to MCP and 264 to control, with 186 participants evaluable in each arm. ITT analyses indicated no significant difference at 6 months post randomisation in total SGRQ score [adjusted effect size (no MCP - MCP) 0.03 (95% confidence interval, CI -0.14 to 0.19)], SGRQ symptom score [adjusted effect size 0.04 (95% CI -0.15 to 0.23)], SGRQ activity score [adjusted effect size -0.02 (95% CI -0.20 to 0.16)] or SGRQ impact score [adjusted effect size 0.02 (95% CI -0.15 to 0.18)]. The imputed ITT and per-protocol results were similar. No significant differences were observed in any of the outcome measures or subgroup analyses. Compared with no MCP, employing MCP was associated with a slight loss in quality of life (0.001 QALY loss) but lower health service costs (cost saving of 410.79 pounds). Based on these estimates, at a cost-effectiveness threshold of lambda = 20,000 pounds per QALY, MCP would constitute a cost-effective use of resources (net benefit = 376.14 pounds). There was, however, a high level of uncertainty associated with these results and it is possible that the lower health service costs could have been due to other factors.

CONCLUSIONS

In terms of longer-term quality of life the use of MCP did not appear to affect outcome. However, this does not mean that MCP is of no therapeutic value to patients with COPD in specific circumstances. Although the cost-effectiveness analysis suggested that its use was cost-effective, much uncertainty was associated with this finding and it would be difficult to justify providing MCP therapy on the basis of cost-effectiveness alone. Future research should include evaluation of MCP for patients with COPD producing high volumes of sputum, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of ACBT in COPD exacerbation.

TRIAL REGISTRATION

Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN13825248.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To estimate the effect, if any, of manual chest physiotherapy (MCP) administered to patients hospitalised with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbation on both disease-specific and generic health-related quality of life. To compare the health service costs for those receiving and not receiving MCP.

DESIGN

A pragmatic, randomised controlled trial powered for equivalence. It was not possible to blind participants, clinicians or research staff to study arm allocation during the intervention.

SETTING

Four UK hospitals in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn and Liverpool.

PARTICIPANTS

526 participants aged 34-91 years were recruited between November 2005 and April 2008; of these, 372 provided evaluable data for the primary outcome. All persons hospitalised with COPD exacerbation and evidence of sputum production on examination were eligible for the trial providing there were no contraindications to performing MCP.

INTERVENTIONS

Participants were allocated to either MCP or no MCP on an intention-to-treat (ITT) basis. However, active cycle of breathing techniques (ACBT) was used in both arms. Participants allocated to the intervention were guided to perform ACBT while the physiotherapist delivered MCP. Participants allocated to the control arm received instruction on ACBT only.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES

The primary outcome was COPD-specific quality of life, measured using the St George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) at 6 months post randomisation. The European Quality of Life-5 Dimensions (EQ-5D) questionnaire was used to calculate the quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gain associated with MCP compared with no MCP. Secondary physiological outcome measures were also used.

RESULTS

Of the 526 participants, 261 were allocated to MCP and 264 to control, with 186 participants evaluable in each arm. ITT analyses indicated no significant difference at 6 months post randomisation in total SGRQ score [adjusted effect size (no MCP - MCP) 0.03 (95% confidence interval, CI -0.14 to 0.19)], SGRQ symptom score [adjusted effect size 0.04 (95% CI -0.15 to 0.23)], SGRQ activity score [adjusted effect size -0.02 (95% CI -0.20 to 0.16)] or SGRQ impact score [adjusted effect size 0.02 (95% CI -0.15 to 0.18)]. The imputed ITT and per-protocol results were similar. No significant differences were observed in any of the outcome measures or subgroup analyses. Compared with no MCP, employing MCP was associated with a slight loss in quality of life (0.001 QALY loss) but lower health service costs (cost saving of 410.79 pounds). Based on these estimates, at a cost-effectiveness threshold of lambda = 20,000 pounds per QALY, MCP would constitute a cost-effective use of resources (net benefit = 376.14 pounds). There was, however, a high level of uncertainty associated with these results and it is possible that the lower health service costs could have been due to other factors.

CONCLUSIONS

In terms of longer-term quality of life the use of MCP did not appear to affect outcome. However, this does not mean that MCP is of no therapeutic value to patients with COPD in specific circumstances. Although the cost-effectiveness analysis suggested that its use was cost-effective, much uncertainty was associated with this finding and it would be difficult to justify providing MCP therapy on the basis of cost-effectiveness alone. Future research should include evaluation of MCP for patients with COPD producing high volumes of sputum, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of ACBT in COPD exacerbation.

TRIAL REGISTRATION

Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN13825248.

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