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Pulmonary rehabilitation is a growing specialty within the field of pediatric pulmonology, and our physicians are well trained and experienced in prescribing and managing pulmonary rehabilitation for children with chronic respiratory disorders.
What is Pulmonary Rehabilitation?
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a relatively new approach to patients with chronic lung diseases, and has traditionally been applied to adults with chronic lung disease, especially emphysema and chronic bronchitis (often referred to as COPD). The goal of pulmonary rehabilitation is to help patients live with chronic lung disease as best as they can. Chronic lung disease in children as well as adults is exhausting and can lead to poor appetite, poor weight gain or growth, muscle weakness, poor exercise tolerance, and depression. This doesn’t just occur in adults! The goal of pulmonary rehabilitation is to maximize each child’s lung function, but also to consider how we can mitigate all of the secondary complications and effects of chronic lung disease.
Who should be considered for a pulmonary rehabilitation evaluation?
Pulmonary rehabilitation should be considered for children of any age who have lung disease lasting more than a few months. Our pediatric pulmonologists are trained to not only treat specific lung diseases, but to treat the whole child. Often patients with chronic lung disease benefit from these programs even if their actual lung function remains quite abnormal.
What kinds of modalities are used in pulmonary rehabilitation?
- Nutritional Counseling: Dietary counseling is essential to strengthening the whole body, and our division has an expert pediatric dietician who can be tremendously helpful to assure adequate calories and a well-balanced diet. Many of our patients require supplemental nutrition, both increased calories and appropriate and safe vitamin supplementation.
- Exercises and Fitness Programs: Regardless of how reduced a child’s lung function is, we hope to encourage all children to remain active and participate in all of the normal childhood activities are so important to quality of life. The Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital Pediatric Pulmonary Function Laboratory is just one floor down from our main offices at 19 Bradhurst Avenue, Hawthorne, NY. We have two excellent pediatric pulmonary function technicians. Our lab is fully equipped to perform exercise tolerance tests, also known as cardiopulmonary exercise testing, to determine if a child’s exercise is limited, and if so, why. Is it the lungs? Is it the heart? Is it physical conditioning? These are extremely important questions that we can often help answer. We work very closely with our colleagues in the Pediatric Cardiology Division to help answer these questions and to help design an appropriate exercise program.
- Airway Clearance Therapy: Many lung diseases result in thick inspissated mucus pooling in the bronchial tubes. This problem is extremely common not only in patients with cystic fibrosis, but in many children with a wide range of respiratory diseases. There has been a dramatic increase in devices and methods designed to help children to expel those secretions. We have our own full time Pediatric Respiratory Therapist right in our office who is an expert in tailoring the right approach to the individual needs of our patients.
- Oxygen Therapy: Many children with chronic lung diseases require home oxygen, and it is important that any prescription for home oxygen include close follow up with a pediatric pulmonologist. Oxygen is often extremely important but it is not without its own risks. There are a variety of ways to deliver oxygen at home and our specialists are trained in assisting parents in dealing with all of the challenges that surround oxygen therapy.
- Psychological Services: We should never underestimate the important role emotions, anxiety, stress, and depression play in children with chronic diseases as well as in their family members. We have a full time psychologist who sees patients right in our own office. This can be tremendously important and is frequently overlooked.