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Inhaled corticosteroids reduce neutrophilic bronchial inflammation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


BACKGROUND Airways inflammation is a feature of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but the role of corticosteroids in the management of clinically stable patients has yet to be established. A randomised controlled study was carried out to investigate the effect of high dose inhaled beclomethasone dipropionate (BDP) administered for two months to patients with stable, smoking related COPD. Sputum induction was used to evaluate bronchial inflammation response.

METHODS 34 patients (20 men and 14 women) were examined on three separate occasions. At the initial clinical assessment (visit 0), spirometry and blood gas analysis were performed. On visit 1 (within one week of visit 0) sputum induction was performed and each patient was randomised to receive either BDP 500 μg three times daily (treated group) or nothing (control group). After two months (visit 2), all patients underwent repeat clinical assessment, spirometry, and sputum induction.

RESULTS There were no differences in sputum cell counts between the groups at baseline. After two months of treatment, induced sputum samples from patients in the treated group showed a reduction in both neutrophils (−27%) and total cells (−42%) with respect to baseline, while the control group did not (neutrophils +9%, total cells +7%). Macrophages increased in the treated group but not in the control group. The mean final value of sputum neutrophils was 52% in the treated group and 73.3% in the control group (95% confidence interval (CI) −27.2 to −15.4). The mean final value of sputum macrophages was 35.8% in treated group and 19.3% in control group (95% CI 10.3 to 22.8). The differences between the treated and control groups for neutrophils (−21.3%), macrophages (+16.5%), and total cells (−65%) were significant. Spirometry and blood gas data did not change from baseline in either patient group.

CONCLUSIONS A two month course of treatment with high dose inhaled BDP reduces significantly neutrophil cell counts in patients with clinically stable, smoking related COPD. Further studies on the effectiveness of inhaled steroids in COPD are needed to confirm the clinical importance of this observation.

  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • neutrophils
  • beclomethasone dipropionate
  • induced sputum analysis

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