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      Heterogeneity in the respiratory symptoms of patients with mild-to-moderate COPD

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          The burden of symptoms varies markedly between patients with COPD and is only weakly correlated with lung function impairment. While heterogeneity in lung function decline and exacerbations have been previously studied, the extent of heterogeneity in symptoms and the factors associated with this heterogeneity are not well understood.


          A sample of the general Canadian population ≥40 years with persistent airflow limitation was followed for up to 3 years. Participants reported whether they experienced chronic coughing, phlegm, wheezing, or dyspnea during visits at 18-month intervals. We used mixed-effect logistic regression models (separately for each symptom) to assess overall heterogeneity in the occurrence of symptoms between individuals, and the proportion of variation in symptom burden explained by lung function vs all other clinical characteristics of participants.


          Four hundred forty-nine participants (53% male, mean age 67 years) contributed 968 visits in total, and 89% of patients reported at least one symptom during follow-up. There was substantial heterogeneity in the individual-specific probabilities for the occurrence of symptoms. This heterogeneity was highest for wheeze and dyspnea (IQR of probabilities: 0.13–0.78 and 0.19–0.81, respectively). FEV 1 explained 28% of the variation between individuals in the occurrence of dyspnea, 8% for phlegm, 3% for cough, and 2% for wheeze. All clinical characteristics of participants (including FEV 1) explained between 26% of heterogeneity in the occurrence of cough to 49% for dyspnea.


          There is marked heterogeneity in the burden of respiratory symptoms between COPD patients. The ability of lung function and other commonly measured clinical characteristics to explain this heterogeneity differs between symptoms.

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          Most cited references 22

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          The natural history of chronic airflow obstruction.

          A prospective epidemiological study of the early stages of the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was performed on London working men. The findings showed that forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) falls gradually over a lifetime, but in most non-smokers and many smokers clinically significant airflow obstruction never develops. In susceptible people, however, smoking causes irreversible obstructive changes. If a susceptible smoker stops smoking he will not recover his lung function, but the average further rates of loss of FEV1 will revert to normal. Therefore, severe or fatal obstructive lung disease could be prevented by screening smokers' lung function in early middle age if those with reduced function could be induced to stop smoking. Infective processes and chronic mucus hypersecretion do not cause chronic airflow obstruction to progress more rapidly. There are thus two largely unrelated disease processes, chronic airflow obstruction and the hypersecretory disorder (including infective processes).
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            Global and regional estimates of COPD prevalence: Systematic review and meta–analysis

            Background The burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) across many world regions is high. We aim to estimate COPD prevalence and number of disease cases for the years 1990 and 2010 across world regions based on the best available evidence in publicly accessible scientific databases. Methods We conducted a systematic search of Medline, EMBASE and Global Health for original, population–based studies providing spirometry–based prevalence rates of COPD across the world from January 1990 to December 2014. Random effects meta–analysis was conducted on extracted crude prevalence rates of COPD, with overall summaries of the meta–estimates (and confidence intervals) reported separately for World Health Organization (WHO) regions, the World Bank's income categories and settings (urban and rural). We developed a meta–regression epidemiological model that we used to estimate the prevalence of COPD in people aged 30 years or more. Findings Our search returned 37 472 publications. A total of 123 studies based on a spirometry–defined prevalence were retained for the review. From the meta–regression epidemiological model, we estimated about 227.3 million COPD cases in the year 1990 among people aged 30 years or more, corresponding to a global prevalence of 10.7% (95% confidence interval (CI) 7.3%–14.0%) in this age group. The number of COPD cases increased to 384 million in 2010, with a global prevalence of 11.7% (8.4%–15.0%). This increase of 68.9% was mainly driven by global demographic changes. Across WHO regions, the highest prevalence was estimated in the Americas (13.3% in 1990 and 15.2% in 2010), and the lowest in South East Asia (7.9% in 1990 and 9.7% in 2010). The percentage increase in COPD cases between 1990 and 2010 was the highest in the Eastern Mediterranean region (118.7%), followed by the African region (102.1%), while the European region recorded the lowest increase (22.5%). In 1990, we estimated about 120.9 million COPD cases among urban dwellers (prevalence of 13.2%) and 106.3 million cases among rural dwellers (prevalence of 8.8%). In 2010, there were more than 230 million COPD cases among urban dwellers (prevalence of 13.6%) and 153.7 million among rural dwellers (prevalence of 9.7%). The overall prevalence in men aged 30 years or more was 14.3% (95% CI 13.3%–15.3%) compared to 7.6% (95% CI 7.0%–8.2%) in women. Conclusions Our findings suggest a high and growing prevalence of COPD, both globally and regionally. There is a paucity of studies in Africa, South East Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean region. There is a need for governments, policy makers and international organizations to consider strengthening collaborations to address COPD globally.
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              The significance of respiratory symptoms and the diagnosis of chronic bronchitis in a working population.


                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                13 December 2018
                : 13
                : 3983-3995
                [1 ]Collaboration for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, msafavi@
                [2 ]Institute for Heart and Lung Health, Department of Medicine, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, msafavi@
                [3 ]Centre for Heart Lung Innovation (the James Hogg Research Centre), St Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada
                [4 ]Respiratory Epidemiology and Clinical Research Unit, McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, QC, Canada
                [5 ]Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation, Vancouver Coastal Health Institute, Vancouver, BC, Canada, msafavi@
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Mohsen Sadatsafavi, Collaboration for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver Campus, 2405 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada, Tel +1 604 827 3020, Fax +1 604 875 5179, Email msafavi@
                © 2018 Johnson et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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