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Some studies show a decline of FEV1 only one month after withdrawal of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), while others show no decline. We speculate that the presence of an asthma phenotype in the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) population, and that its exclusion may result in no spirometric deterioration.
We performed a prospective clinical observation study on 32 patients who fulfilled the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive lung disease definition of COPD (Grade II-IV). They were divided into two phenotypic groups. 1. Irreversible asthma (A and B) (n = 13): A. Asthma: Bronchial biopsy shows diffuse thickening of basement membrane (≥ 6.6 μm). B. Airflow limitation (AFL) likely to be asthma: KCO > 80% predicted if the patient refused biopsy. 2. COPD (A and B) (n = 19): A. COPD: hypercapneic respiratory failure with raised bicarbonate, panlobular emphysema with multiple bullas, or bronchial biopsy showing squamous metaplasia and epithelial/subepithelial inflammation without thickening of the basement membrane. B. AFL likely to be COPD: KCO < 80% predicted.
The asthma phenotype was significantly younger, had a strong association with hypertrophy of nasal turbinates, and registered a significant improvement of FEV1 (350 ml) vs a decline of - 26.5 ml in the COPD phenotype following therapy with budesonide/formoterol for one year. Withdrawal of budesonide for 4 weeks in the COPD phenotype resulted in FEV1 + 1.33% (SD ± 5.71) and FVC + 1.24% (SD ± 5.32); a change of <12% in all patients.
We recorded no spirometric deterioration after exclusion of the asthma phenotype from a COPD group.