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CMAJ. 1988 Mar 15;138(6):503-10.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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Section of Respiratory Disease, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg.


Outpatient management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is reviewed in this paper. Smoking cessation is probably important, although its benefit in established COPD is unproven. Bronchodilator therapy may be of more than symptomatic benefit and is indicated in virtually all patients. Specific beta 2-agonists are the most widely used agents and can be given in substantially larger doses than are usually recommended. Ipratropium bromide, an anticholinergic drug, is about as effective as a beta 2-agonist, but in large doses the two drugs do not seem to have additive effects, unlike theophylline and beta 2-agonists. Systemic corticosteroids decrease airway obstruction substantially in a small number of patients with COPD; these agents should be reserved for these patients and used sparingly. Inhaled steroids are of little benefit, as are respiratory stimulants and depressants. Broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy helps to relieve symptomatic exacerbations of COPD, particularly those characterized by increased dyspnea, sputum volume and sputum purulence. Cor pulmonale is best managed by diuretics and oxygen, with digoxin reserved for left ventricular failure and supraventricular arrhythmias. Continuous oxygen therapy at home is indicated for the patients who have chronic arterial hypoxemia.

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