Deadly Dozen for COPD Patients

Comorbidities are associated with increasing the risk of death for COPD

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is deadly enough without help. In a new study, 12 diseases in particular had the strongest association with increasing the risk for COPD patients.

Comorbidities, or diseases in addition to the main disease, are common for COPD patients. A disease may affect the immune system of the patient, making the individual prone to additional diseases or infections.

By understanding what diseases may increase the risk of death, researchers might target treatment for those diseases to help increase the lifespan of the patient.

"Ask your doctor about other risk factors for COPD patients."

The study was led by Miguel Divo, MD, from the Pulmonary and Critical Division at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Researchers adjusted the findings for age, race, gender and BODE, which measures Body Mass Index (BMI); lung capacity; shortness of breath and exercise capacity, to create a COPD comorbidity risk index called the COPD specific CO-morbidity Test (COTE).

Researchers studied 1,664 COPD from America and Spain for up to 51 months. Among the COPD patients, researchers observed 79 additional diseases to COPD. The COTE determines the effect of a disease on increasing the risk of death for COPD patients.

Using COTE, researchers discovered 12 diseases that were strongly associated with increasing the risk of death for COPD.

The diseases were lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer, breast cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, atrial fibrillation/flutter, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, gastric/duodenal ulcers, liver cirrhosis, diabetes with nerve damage and anxiety.

On average, the 1,664 COPD patients had six more diseases in addition to COPD. COPD patients that died had more comorbidities, 6.5 additional diseases, than COPD patients who were alive, 5.8 additional diseases.

Researchers believe that the 12 diseases, because they can be identified using common health screenings and exams, could be an ideal target for intervention. Doctors can make sure to look for certain diseases while treating COPD patients.

While these 12 diseases are strongly associated with COPD, there are additional diseases that COPD patients are susceptible to, such as pulmonary diseases. COPD patients are more likely to get pneumonia and the flu.

COPD patients should take precautions in cold weather, which could make breathing difficult.

There were some limitations to the study, including only 11 percent of participants being female. The participants were selected from specialty clinics and might not represent a broader COPD population.

COPD is a lifelong disease with no cure, knowing which diseases affect COPD patients the most is important in developing treatments.  

The study will be published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 2, 2012
Last Updated:
May 4, 2012