BACKGROUND--Weight loss is a well recognised feature of patients with emphysematous chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It has been suggested that this weight loss could be due to a hypermetabolic state resulting from the increased oxygen cost of breathing (OCB). To clarify the relation between resting energy expenditure (REE), nutritional state, and OCB these indices were measured in patients with respiratory impairment and an increased OCB due to COPD, scoliosis, and thoracoplasty. METHODS--Eighteen patients (six COPD, six scoliosis, six thoracoplasty) of mean (SD) age 59.9 (8.6) years (8M, 10F) and six controls (45.5 (9.9) years; 2M, 4F) were studied. OCB was estimated by the addition of dead space to the breathing circuit and REE was measured by indirect calorimetry using a ventilated canopy system. Height, arm span, weight, triceps skin fold thickness (TSF), mid-arm muscle circumference (MAMC), forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), and vital capacity (VC) were measured in all study subjects. RESULTS--OCB was elevated in all patient groups (mean 7.0 ml/l) compared with controls (1.9 ml/l). All patients with COPD, four with scoliosis, three with thoracoplasty, and none of the controls were < 90% ideal body weight. Mean (SD) measured REE as % predicted (Harris-Benedict equation) was 103.8 (7.6) in patients with COPD, 105.5 (10.9) in those with scoliosis, 106.3 (6.9) in the thoracoplasty patients, and 103.3 (3.4) in controls. One patient with COPD, two with scoliosis, two with thoracoplasty, but no controls were hypermetabolic (REE > 110% predicted). In all groups there was a negative relation between OCB and lung function (OCB v FEV1 r = -0.83 in COPD, -0.62 in scoliosis, -0.67 in thoracoplasty, and -0.76 in controls). There was no correlation between REE and OCB or MAMC. CONCLUSIONS--In patients with respiratory disease OCB (augmented ventilation) is related to lung function but not to REE. This is evidence against the hypothesis that hypermetabolism due to increased oxygen cost of breathing at rest is the sole or major cause of malnutrition in patients with lung disease.
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