Pulmonary Hypertension Unit

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New Home Exercise Program for PH patients

A Meath research student has designed a ground-breaking home based exercise rehab programme for Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) patients which will be the first of its kind in Europe.

Ciara McCormack, a Clinical Exercise Physiologist and PhD researcher in DCU who specialises in chronic illness exercise rehabilitation, has just returned home from Berlin where her protocol received huge acclaim at an international conference on pulmonary hypertension. There are over 250 patients of PH currently being treated at Ireland’s only PH unit, run by Professor Sean Gaine in Dublin’s Mater Hospital. Numbers suffering from the condition may be higher as it’s a disease that can remain undiagnosed.

Until recently, those suffering from PH have generally been advised against exercise unless under specialised supervision. However Ciara has devised the first European exercise package, which will allow patients to train safely at home. Research has proved that exercise is beneficial but it has only been used under a strict programme in a specialised unit in Heidelberg in Germany where patients have to spend three weeks or more as in-patients.

Ciara devised a programme where patients spend just one day a week over three weeks in a specialised unit receiving education and training before going home to undertake a 12 week programme. Ciara explains: ‘They learn about their disease and about lifestyle changes as well as exercise plans and to exercise safely, which I hope will incorporate an exercise bicycle in their homes. I hope it will increase their quality of life and empower them in their homes, knowing that it’s effective and safe alongside their medication. It’s been shown that those who can only walk 300m over a 6 minute period can significantly improve this after just a few weeks, which can greatly improve their quality of life.”

Ciara’s research has gained ethical approval from the Mater Hospital and DCU. She has been approved a grant from pharmaceutical company Actelion and she hopes to start the programme with up to 20 patients within eight weeks.

This is a very exciting project and you can listen to the background and progress to date on the podcast file (below) from a radio interview Ciara undertook recently. You can listen to it in a browser by clicking on the link or by downloading it and using your own audio software.