Background: Globally, bronchiectasis (BE) unrelated to cystic fibrosis (CF) is recognized as a major cause of respiratory morbidity, mortality, and healthcare utilization. Children with BE regularly experience exacerbations of their condition resulting in frequent hospitalizations and decreased health-related quality of life (HR-QoL). Guidelines for the treatment and management of BE call for regular exercise as a means of improving aerobic fitness and HR-QoL. Moreover, research in adults with BE has shown that exercise can reduce the frequency of exacerbations, a potent predictor of future lung function decline and respiratory morbidity. Yet, to date, the health benefits resulting from therapeutic exercise have not been investigated in children with BE. The BREATH, Bronchiectasis - Exercise as Therapy, trial will test the efficacy of a novel 8-week, play-based therapeutic exercise program to reduce the frequency of acute exacerbations over 12 months in children with BE (aged ≥ 4 and < 13 years). Secondary aims are to determine the cost-effectiveness of the intervention and assess the program’s impact on aerobic fitness, fundamental movement skill (FMS) proficiency, habitual physical activity, HR-QoL, and lung function.
Methods: This multi-center, observer-blinded, parallel-group (1:1 allocation), randomized controlled trial (RCT) will be conducted at three sites. One hundred and seventy-four children ≥ 4 and < 13 years of age with BE will be randomized to a developmentally appropriate, play-based therapeutic exercise program (eight, 60-min weekly sessions, supplemented by a home-based program) or usual care. After completing the baseline assessments, the number of exacerbations and secondary outcomes will be assessed immediately post-intervention, after 6 months of follow-up, and after 12 months of follow-up. Monthly, parental contact and medical review will document acute respiratory exacerbations and parameters for cost-effectiveness outcomes.
Discussion: The BREATH trial is the first fully powered RCT to test the effects of a therapeutic exercise on exacerbation frequency, fitness, movement competence, and HR-QoL in children with bronchiectasis. By implementing a developmentally appropriate, play-based exercise program tailored to the individual needs of children with bronchiectasis, the results have the potential for a major paradigm shift in the way in which therapeutic exercise is prescribed and implemented in children with chronic respiratory conditions. The exercise program can be readily translated. It does not require expensive equipment and can be delivered in a variety of settings, including the participant’s home. The program has strong potential for translation to other pediatric patient groups with similar needs for exercise therapy, including those with obesity, childhood cancers, and neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy.