Research Article| Volume 58, P91-97, March 2023

Respiratory and peripheral muscle strength influence recovery of exercise capacity after severe exacerbation of COPD? An observational prospective cohort study

Published:November 23, 2022DOI:


      • Recovery of exercise capacity is variable after COPD exacerbation.
      • Quadriceps weakness at hospitalization predicts a poor recovery after 30 days.
      • No influence of respiratory and handgrip strength was observed.
      • Early rehabilitation should improve leg strength to accelerate functional recovery.



      Patients with acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD) have decreased exercise tolerance, which may persist for months. In this context, little is known about the associations between muscle strength and recovery of exercise capacity.


      To assess whether respiratory and peripheral muscle strength influence recovery of exercise capacity in patients hospitalized due to AECOPD.


      Twenty-seven AECOPD patients (aged 69 ± 7 years, 56% male) were included. The following assessments were performed within 24 to 72 h of hospital admission: (i) respiratory muscle strength, measured by maximal inspiratory and expiratory pressures (MIP and MEP); (ii) peripheral muscle strength, assessed by handgrip and quadriceps muscle strength; and (iii) exercise capacity, measured by 6-min walking distance (6MWD). The 6MWD was reassessed 30 days later to determine the recovery of exercise capacity.


      After 30 days, while 63% of the patients showed clinically important improvement in the 6MWD (recovery ≥ 30 m), 37% showed no change (recovery < 30 m). During hospital stay, the non-recovered group had lower quadriceps muscle strength compared to the recovered group (15 ± 5 vs. 22 ± 6 kgf; P = 0.006), with no significant difference for MIP, MEP and handgrip strength. Only quadriceps muscle strength was associated with recovery of exercise capacity (r = 0.56; P = 0.003).


      AECOPD patients with quadriceps muscle weakness during hospitalization have poor recovery of exercise capacity after 30 days. This finding suggests the importance of early rehabilitation to improve quadriceps strength and accelerate functional recovery after AECOPD.


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