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COPD. 2010 Oct;7(5):375-82. doi: 10.3109/15412555.2010.510160.

Mortality in COPD: causes, risk factors, and prevention.

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Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading and increasing cause of death, the extent of which is underestimated as a consequence of underdiagnosis and underreporting on death certificates. Data from large trials, such as the Lung Health Study, Towards a Revolution in COPD Health (TORCH), Understanding Potential Long-term Impacts on Function with Tiotropium (UPLIFT), European Respiratory Society Study on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (EUROSCOP), and Inhaled Steroids in Obstructive Lung Disease (ISOLDE), have shown that the causes of death in patients with mild COPD are predominantly cancer and cardiovascular disease, but as COPD severity increases, deaths due to non-malignant respiratory disease are increasingly common. In practice, mortality of patients with COPD can be predicted by a variety of measures including: forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV(1)), the ratio of inspiratory and total lung capacities, exercise capacity, dyspnea scores, and composite indices such as the body-mass index (B), degree of airflow obstruction (O), degree of functional dyspnea (D), and exercise capacity (E) (BODE) index. Smoking cessation improves survival in COPD patients, and in select patients with advanced disease, oxygen therapy, lung volume reduction surgery, or lung transplantation may also improve survival.

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