Disabling Breathlessness Is Common Among Patients With COPD

Disabling breathlessness and persistent disabling breathlessness are common in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) despite treatment status, according to a new analysis.

To determine the prevalence of and risk factors for disabling breathlessness, the researchers analyzed data from 1689 patients with COPD registered in the Swedish National Register of COPD.

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Breathlessness was measured at baseline and follow-up using modified Medical Research Council (mMRC) scores.

Disabling breathlessness was defined as an mMRC as 2 or more at baseline, and persistent disabling breathlessness was defined as disabling breathlessness at baseline and follow-up.

At baseline, 54% of patients had disabling breathlessness.

After a median follow-up of 4 months, the researchers found that persistent disabling breathlessness was prevalent in 43% of patients despite treatment and 74% of patients despite inhaled triple therapy and physiotherapy.

Older age, lower lung function, frequent exacerbations, obesity, heart failure, depression, and hypoxic respiratory failure were risk factors for disabling breathlessness or change to disabling breathlessness.

Lower lung function and ischemic heart disease were risk factors for persistent disabling breathlessness.

“Disabling breathlessness is common in COPD despite treatment, which calls for improved symptomatic treatments and consideration of factors influencing disabling breathlessness,” the researchers concluded. “Factors influencing disabling breathlessness should be considered for COPD management.”

—Amanda Balbi


Sundh J, Ekström M. Persistent disabling breathlessness in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [published online November 9, 2016]. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. https://doi.org/10.2147/COPD.S119992.