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Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2011 Nov;8(6):522-7. doi: 10.1513/pats.201101-008MW.

The epidemiology of vascular dysfunction relating to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema.

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  • 1Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York, USA.


Cor pulmonale has long been described in very severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema. Cross-sectional results from population-based studies show that left ventricular filling and a variety of vascular measures in the systemic circulation are abnormal in preclinical COPD and emphysema and that a predominant vascular change in COPD and emphysema is endothelial and microvascular dysfunction. These findings suggest that pulmonary vascular changes may occur early in COPD and emphysema and might contribute to pathogenesis. However, longitudinal epidemiologic studies with direct measures of the pulmonary vasculature are lacking; therefore, inferences are limited at present. New imaging-based approaches to the assessment of the pulmonary vasculature are applicable to epidemiologic studies and may help in defining the relationship of pulmonary vascular damage to progression of COPD and emphysema. These measures may also provide imaging-based surrogate markers, and novel therapeutics targeted to the pulmonary vasculature might reduce symptoms and improve function in these common diseases.

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