Bausewein, C., Booth, S., Gysels, M., & Higginson, I. (2008). Non-pharmacological interventions for breathlessness in advanced stages of malignant and non-malignant diseases. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (Online), 2(2), CD005623.doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005623.pub2
The objectives of the study were to
The study reported on a sample of 2,532 participants in 47 studies categorized into single intervention or multi-component interventions.
The following single interventions were identified.
The following multi-component interventions were identified.
A meta-analysis of the included studies was not possible due to hetereogeneity of the studies. Strong evidence suggests that neurologic muscular electrical stimulation and chest wall vibrations provide helpful relief of breathlessness in patients with COPD. However, the practical implications of the chest wall vibration interventions were only conducted in the respiratory laboratory. The evidence is moderately strong for walking aids having some benefits for patients with COPD with breathlessness by reducing the work of chest muscles. Moderate strength of evidence exists for breathing training being beneficial for breathless patients. Finally, not enough evidence exists to recommend usage of acupuncture, distractive auditory stimuli, relaxation, fan, counseling and support programs, or counseling and support programs in combination with relaxation and breathing training, case management, and psychotherapy.
Moderate evidence strength for walking aids and breathing retraining for COPD suggests these may be helpful interventions. Applicability in patients with cancer may be worth investigation.