Effects of acute use of pursed-lips breathing during exercise in patients with COPD: a systematic review

Pursed-lips breathing (PLB) is a ventilatory strategy frequently adopted spontaneously by patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to relieve dyspnoea, and its practice is widely taught as a respiratory strategy to increase exercise tolerance. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of acute use of PLB in exercise performance, dyspnoea, ventilatory parameters and oxygen saturation during exercise in patients with COPD.

This was achieved through systematically reviewing crossover, randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials that studied PLB as a ventilatory strategy for patients with COPD during exercise. Data extraction included background characteristics of the research reports; participant characteristics; description of the analyzed variables and corresponding instruments; exercise protocol; exercise performance; outcomes and corresponding results; data for “responder” and “non-responder” outcomes.

Eight studies were selected. The meta-analysis demonstrated that the use of PLB during exercise reduces minute ventilation and respiratory rate compared to exercise without PLB. No statistically significant differences were found in the 6-minute walk test distance.

PLB is effective in reducing minute ventilation and respiratory rate during exercise in patients with COPD. It is still unclear who responds to PLB and how these responders benefit from its use. Further studies with better methodological quality are necessary to understand the implications of its acute use on the functional capacity and symptoms of patients with COPD.