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The role of Physiotherapy in cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions

Cardiorespiratory physiotherapy is an area of physiotherapy that is focused on the management of patients with heart or/or lung conditions. Treatment may encompass prevention or rehabilitation to maintain and improve function and quality of life.

Typical features of cardiorespiratory clinical conditions include shortness of breath, chronic cough, sputum, disordered breathing and reduced exercise tolerance. Cardiorespiratory physiotherapists work in wide range of clinical areas, including intensive care, surgical wards, community exercise programmes and private clinics.

Research interests

  • Supported self-management
  • Physical activity
  • Behaviour change
  • Telehealth
  • Sternal precautions
  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Sleep disordered breathing
  • Long COVID

Our focus on person centred research and recognition of the importance of lived experience means much of our research lends itself to a qualitative approach, which ensures the patient perspective has a fundamental role in shaping both research questions and outcomes.

About the Team and our philosophy

Emily Gray 186x279Dr Sarah Rhodes and Dr Emily Gray (pictured top) lead teaching and research in this space in the School of Physiotherapy. To see more about their individual research programmes:

Dr Sarah Rhodes

Dr Emily Gray

Our research brings together our shared passion for improving outcomes for people with cardiorespiratory conditions. We have a strong focus on person centred care and influencing health service delivery, including the development of equitable and accessible rehabilitation services. Supported self-management, empowerment through physical activity and behaviour change are key themes within our research.

Sarah Rhodes image 226Through our teaching, we aim to promote evidence-informed clinical practice and develop critical thinkers. This is optimised through creating safe and engaging learning environments.

Team collaborators

Dr Margot Skinner
Dr Suranga Dassanayake


Gray, E. A., Skinner, M. A., Hale, L. A., & Bunton, R. W. (2022). Preparation and support for physical activity following hospital discharge after coronary artery bypass graft surgery: A survey of current practice in New Zealand. Physiotherapy Research International, 27, e1940. doi: 10.1002/pri.1940

Gray, E., Smith, C., Bunton, R., & Skinner, M. (2022). Perceptions and experiences of engaging in physical activity following coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Physiotherapy Theory & Practice, 38(13), 2841-2855. doi: 10.1080/09593985.2021.1989733

Gray, E., Dassanayake, S., Sangelaji, B., Hale, L., & Skinner, M. (2021). Factors influencing physical activity engagement following coronary artery bypass graft surgery: A mixed methods systematic review. Heart & Lung, 50, 589-598. doi: 10.1016/j.hrtlng.2021.04.006

Rhodes, S., Waters, D., Brockway, B., & Skinner, M. (2022). Exercise and motivational text messaging to support physical activity behaviour change in a population with obstructive sleep apnoea: A feasibility study. Journal of Primary Health Care, 14(4), 318-325. doi: 10.1071/HC22033

Rhodes, S. (2022). Physiotherapy in the management of long COVID: Preparing for the rising tide. New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy, 50(2), 56-57. doi: 10.15619/NZJP/50.2.01

Caudwell, L., Himani, H., Khaw, A., Taylor, R., White, J., Rhodes, S., & Skinner, M. (2020). Attitudes and perceptions of health professionals towards sleep health: A systematic review. Physical Therapy Reviews, 25(5-6), 361-380. doi: 10.1080/10833196.2020.1832713

Rhodes, S., Waters, D., Brockway, B., & Skinner, M. (2020). Physical activity behaviour and barriers to activity in adults at high risk of obstructive sleep apnoea. Journal of Primary Health Care, 12(3), 257-264. doi: 10.1071/hc19102

Draper, O., Goh, I., Huang, C., Le Quesne, P., Smith, K., Gray, E., & Skinner, M. (2020). Psychosocial interventions to optimize recovery of physical function and facilitate engagement in physical activity during the first three months following CABG surgery: A systematic review. Physical Therapy Reviews. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/10833196.2020.1832714

Dassanayake, S., Sole, G., Wilkins, G., & Skinner, M. (2020). Exercise: A therapeutic modality to treat blood pressure in resistant hypertension. Physical Therapy Reviews, 25(3), 149-158. doi: 10.1080/10833196.2020.1733781

Dassanayake, S., Sole, G., Wilkins, G., & Skinner, M. (2020). Effect of exercise and physical activity on blood pressure in adults with resistant hypertension: A protocol for a systematic review. Physical Therapy Reviews, 25(2), 128-134. doi: 10.1080/10833196.2020.1728986


To learn more about cardiopulmonary research at Otago contact either: or

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