Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) fall frequently, although the risk of falls may seem less important than the respiratory consequences of the disease. Nevertheless, falls are associated to increased mortality, decreased independence and physical activity levels, and worsening of quality of life. The aims of this systematic review was to evaluate information in the literature with regard to whether impaired postural control is more prevalent in COPD patients than in healthy age-matched subjects, and to assess the main characteristics these patients present that contribute to impaired postural control.
Five databases were searched with no dates or language limits. The MEDLINE, PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, and PEDro databases were searched using "balance", "postural control", and "COPD" as keywords. The search strategies were oriented and guided by a health science librarian and were performed on March 27, 2014. The studies included were those that evaluated postural control in COPD patients as their main outcome and scored more than five points on the PEDro scale. Studies supplied by the database search strategy were assessed independently by two blinded researchers.
A total of 484 manuscripts were found using the "balance in COPD or postural control in COPD" keywords. Forty-three manuscripts appeared more than once, and 397 did not evaluate postural control in COPD patients as the primary outcome. Thus, only 14 studies had postural control as their primary outcome. Our study examiners found only seven studies that had a PEDro score higher than five points. The examiners' interrater agreement was 76.4%. Six of those studies were accomplished with a control group and one study used their patients as their own controls. The studies were published between 2004 and 2013.
Patients with COPD present postural control impairment when compared with age-matched healthy controls. Associated factors contributing to impaired postural control were muscle weakness, physical inactivity, elderly age, need for supplemental oxygen, and limited mobility.