Mucus Plugs Linked to Increased All-Cause Mortality in COPD

Increased hazard ratio for death seen with plugs in one or two and three or more versus zero lung segments
Mucus Plugs Linked to Increased All-Cause Mortality in COPD
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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

THURSDAY, May 25, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the presence of airway-occluding mucus plugs is associated with increased all-cause mortality, according to a study published online May 21 in the Journal of the American Medical Association to coincide with the American Thoracic Society’s 2023 International Conference, held from May 19 to 24 in Washington, D.C.

Alejandro A. Diaz, M.D., M.P.H., from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues conducted an observational retrospective analysis involving patients with a diagnosis of COPD in the Genetic Epidemiology of COPD cohort to examine whether airway mucus plugs identified on chest computed tomography are associated with increased all-cause mortality. The primary analysis included 4,483 participants with COPD who were aged 45 to 80 years and who smoked at least 10 pack-years.

The researchers found that 59.3, 21.8, and 18.9 percent of participants had mucus plugs in zero, one to two, and three or more lung segments, respectively. A total of 1,769 participants (40.6 percent) died during a median follow-up of 9.5 years. Participants who had mucus plugs in zero, one to two, and three or more lung segments had mortality rates of 34.0, 46.7, and 54.1 percent, respectively. The hazard ratio of death was 1.15 and 1.24 for those with mucus plugs in one to two and three or more segments, respectively, versus zero lung segments.

"The data show a compelling association between the accumulation of these mucus plugs and overall mortality, but we don't know anything about what's driving it yet," Diaz said in a statement.

Several authors disclosed ties to the pharmaceutical industry; the COPD Foundation supported the COPDGene project through pharmaceutical company contributions to an Industry Advisory Board.

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