Rapid Early Decline Bodes Ill for COPD Patients

Individuals who quickly lose lung function die much sooner, research shows

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MONDAY, May 8, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and rapid lung function decline were 10 times more likely to die and 40 times more likely to be hospitalized over three years than people with normal lung function, researchers report.

COPD results from persistent obstruction of the airways caused by severe emphysema or chronic bronchitis.

The study included nearly 14,000 middle-aged adults whose lung function was tested at the start of the study, and again three years later.

Twenty-five percent of the patients (3,437) with the worst lung function were classified as "rapid decliners" at the start of the study. Of the 720 people who died during the study, 273 (38 percent) were rapid decliners.

"The impact of rapid decline in [lung function] was stronger in adults with normal or near-normal lung function at baseline, and suggests that this group of people may need more frequent screening and interventions beyond what is recommended," researcher Dr. David Mannino of the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington said in a prepared statement.

The study appears in the May 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about COPD.

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, May 1, 2005

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