The pulmonary rehabilitation program has become a cornerstone in the management of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Programs based in hospital and treatment facilities, however, are inconvenient and underutilized. A home-based program is a promising alternative, but studies of its effectiveness have yielded inconsistent results.

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the impact of home-based pulmonary rehabilitation programs on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and other health outcomes in patients with COPD.


Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of home-based pulmonary rehabilitation programs published between February 1991 and February 2012 were retrieved from electronic databases (PubMed, Cochrane Library, Science Direct, China National Knowledge Infrastructure [CNKI], and Wanfang Database). Two reviewers independently assessed topical relevance and trial quality, extracted data for meta-analysis using the Review Manager v5.1 software, and contacted the original studies' authors for additional information.


Eighteen trials, comprising 733 randomized patients, were included in the meta-analysis. COPD patients experienced significant relief in dyspnea status, measured by the Borg score (Fixed effects model, WMD = −0.92, 95% CI: −1.61~−0.23, p = .009) and baseline dyspnea index (BDI) (Fixed effects model, WMD = −1.77, 95% CI: −2.65~−0.89, p < .0001) after 12 weeks of home-based intervention. Home-based intervention also improved patients' HRQoL scores, measured by the Chronic Respiratory Questionnaire (CRQ) and St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) (Fixed effects model, WMD = −11.33, 95% CI: −16.37~−6.29, p < .0001, SGRQ total scores after 12 weeks of intervention); exercise capacity (measured by the 6-minute walking distance test (6MWD) (Fixed effects model, WMD = 35.88, 95% CI: 9.38~62.38, p = .008, after 12 weeks of intervention); and pulmonary functions (measured by forced expiratory volume in one-second/forced vital capacity (FEV1/FVC) [Random effects model, WMD = −10.72, 95% CI: −15.86~−5.58, p < .0001, after 12 weeks of intervention), as compared with the nonintervention control group; however, no statistically significant changes were seen in maximal workload, hospital admission, cost of care, or mortality between the two groups.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance

Home-based pulmonary rehabilitation programs represent effective therapeutic intervention approaches for relieving COPD-associated respiratory symptoms and improving HRQoL and exercise capacity. Rigorously designed, large-scale RCTs are still needed to identify an optimal standard home-based pulmonary rehabilitation program.