As the clinical significance of chronic bronchitis among smokers without airflow obstruction is unclear, we sought to determine morbidity associated with this disorder.
We examined subjects from the COPDGene study and compared those with FEV1/FVC ≥ 0.70, no diagnosis of asthma and chronic bronchitis as defined as a history of cough and phlegm production for ≥ 3 months/year for ≥ 2 years (NCB) to non-obstructed subjects without chronic bronchitis (CB-). Multivariate analysis was used to determine factors associated with and impact of NCB.
We identified 597 NCB and 4283 CB- subjects. NCB participants were younger (55.4 vs. 57.2 years, p < 0.001) with greater tobacco exposure (42.9 vs. 37.8 pack-years, p < 0.001) and more often current smokers; more frequently reported occupational exposure to fumes (52.8% vs. 42.2%, p < 0.001), dust for ≥ 1 year (55.3% vs. 42.0%, p < 0.001) and were less likely to be currently working. NCB subjects demonstrated worse quality-of-life (SGRQ 35.6 vs. 15.1, p < 0.001) and exercise capacity (walk distance 415 vs. 449 m, p < 0.001) and more frequently reported respiratory "flare-ups" requiring treatment with antibiotics or steroids (0.30 vs. 0.10 annual events/subject, p < 0.001) prior to enrollment and during follow-up (0.34 vs. 0.16 annual events/subject, p < 0.001). In multivariate analysis, current smoking, GERD, sleep apnea and occupational exposures were significantly associated with NCB. CONCLUSIONS: While longitudinal data will be needed to determine whether NCB progresses to COPD, NCB patients have poorer quality-of-life, exercise capacity and frequent respiratory events. Beyond smoking cessation interventions, further research is warranted to determine the benefit of other therapeutics in this population. Clinical Trials Registration # NCT00608764 (http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT00608764). Link to study protocol: http://www.copdgene.org/sites/default/files/COPDGeneProtocol-5-0_06-19-2009.pdf. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.