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The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre’s (TOHRC) Respiratory Rehabilitation program is designed to help those with chronic lung disease increase their ability to live independently and overcome the physical limitations of their disease.

Respiratory rehabilitation may benefit people with chronic lung disease whose daily activities and quality of life are restricted by the following symptoms:

  • Frequent cough
  • Increased sputum and wheezing
  • Breathlessness on moderate exertion

Our is targeted to include patients with any chronic lung disease, including:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (e.g., emphysema, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis, asthma; sleep disordered breathing)
  • Restrictive pulmonary disorders (pulmonary fibrosis; farmer’s lung; asbestosis)
  • Pre-post surgery (e.g., lung transplant, lung volume reduction, pulmonary complications of cancer)
  • Adult cystic fibrosis

Our Services

Respiratory rehabilitation consists of endurance training, education and disease symptom and disability management. Together, these are overlapping activities contribute to improved quality of life, reduced disability, reduced respiratory-related hospitalizations and increased overall independence.

In response to patient-identified goals, the team develops an individualized program to be carried out in both group and one-on-one settings. This includes participation in the assessment and training of:

  • Endurance: Walking, treadmill, stationary cycling, walker evaluation
  • Pacing: Stairs, walking, other daily functional activities
  • Strengthening: Lightweight training for arms and legs
  • Lung secretion clearance: Effective coughing, trial of techniques to loosen secretions such as steaming, trunk flexibility exercises, flutter valve etc.
  • Breath control: Techniques to improve pattern of breathing, shortness of breath, flutter valve etc.
  • Education: Individual and group sessions using a variety of teaching strategies

A wide range of topics are covered in education, such as:

  • Lung anatomy and physiology: How your lungs work
  • Pathophysiology of lung disease: What’s wrong with your lungs
  • Lung hygiene management: Making the best of your lungs
  • Medical management
  • Medications
  • Oxygen assessment
  • Nutrition and diet
  • Energy conservation and work simplification: Changing your lifestyle
  • Disease symptom and disability management
  • Family sessions and family conferences
  • Breathing training strategies
  • Anxiety, symptom and self-management skill training

Our Team

Our dedicated respiratory rehabilitation team utilizes an interdisciplinary approach that is client- and family-centred and includes:

  • Respirologist
  • Nursing
  • Respiratory therapist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Pharmacist
  • Psychologist
  • Clinical dietician
  • Social worker

The rehabilitation team works in a collaborative fashion to assist clients in attaining their identified goals.

Making an Appointment

Comprehensive assessment identifies appropriate candidates for rehabilitation and allows a program tailored to specific client needs. It includes a medical and exercise evaluation, including a general assessment of daily activities, and an overview of the psychological, social and emotional well-being of the candidate that will allow participation in the respiratory rehabilitation program.

Appropriate clients participate primarily in exercise endurance training supplemented with breathing training and lung secretion clearance techniques. Group and individual education sessions related to overall respiratory goals contribute to the improved management of the disability.

A clinical assessment will determine if you will participate as either an outpatient or as an inpatient.

  • Most patients participate on an outpatient basis, using a 12-week program of primarily exercise training (two days per week, for 1 to 2 hours per session). Consultation and group education sessions with various team members are included.
  • There are six inpatient beds for clients who need to be admitted. The inpatient program is four weeks of exercise training, twice a day, from Monday to Friday. Consultation and group education sessions with various team members are included, with clients returning home each weekend to practice the new techniques and knowledge acquired. This allows clients to give feedback to team members and receive ongoing follow-up support.

You may be a candidate for respiratory rehabilitation if you have been referred by a physician, are 18 years of age or older. and have a respiratory diagnosis or any of the following:

  • Have been hospitalized or visited an emergency department due to shortness of breath
  • Want to improve your quality of life now limited by shortness of breath
  • Motivated and committed to initiate and maintain an exercise program
  • Able and willing to learn how you can better manage your condition
  • Have a FEV1 less than or equal to 70 per cent
  • Are supplemental oxygen dependent
  • Able to participate in self-care, i.e. dressing, toileting
  • Able to return home every weekend (inpatients only)
  • Able to attend multiple appointments in a day

You are not ready for respiratory rehabilitation if you:

  • Still smoke*
  • Are acutely ill
  • Have other serious medical conditions which would interfere with your safe participation in a physical exercise program (e.g. cardiac, severe arthritis or dementia)
  • Have a FEV1 less than 20 per cent

*A smoking cessation program provided by the clinical education nurse is available onsite.

Educational Resources

Contact Us

For further information, please contact:

The Respiratory Rehabilitation Program
The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre
505 Smyth Rd., Ottawa, ON, K1H 8M2
Tel.: (613) 737-7350 ext. 5318
Fax: (613) 736-9054

Last updated on: December 6th, 2016