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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations impair health. The present authors analysed participants in the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study for familial aggregation and propensity for COPD exacerbations. In the present study, two exacerbation outcomes, episodes of cough and phlegm, and frequent exacerbations were analysed with multivariable modelling and generalised estimating equations. In early-onset COPD probands, passive tobacco smoke exposure within the home was strongly associated with episodes of cough and phlegm. Chronic phlegm production was associated with both exacerbation phenotypes in probands. In first-degree relatives of early-onset COPD probands, chronic bronchitis, episodic wheezing, pneumonia and active smoking were associated with the episodes of cough and phlegm phenotype. In relatives, identical characteristics plus exertional dyspnoea were associated with frequent exacerbations. Exacerbation risk increased with declining lung function. Familial aggregation for episodes of cough and phlegm was observed in relatives with severe obstruction. In conclusion, passive smoke exposure increases morbidity in severe early-onset chronic obstructive pulmonary disease probands, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations correlate with chronic sputum production in probands and relatives. The familial aggregation of exacerbations suggests a genetic basis for susceptibility to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations.


M G Foreman, D L DeMeo, C P Hersh, J J Reilly, E K Silverman. Clinical determinants of exacerbations in severe, early-onset COPD. The European respiratory journal. 2007 Dec;30(6):1124-30

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PMID: 17715170

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