Skeletal muscle dysfunction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Jul;33(7 Suppl):S662-70. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200107001-00004.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major health care problem. Formerly mainly a disease of men, women are increasingly frequently afflicted. In many of these patients, exercise intolerance is the chief complaint. Few effective therapies are available. In recent years, dysfunction of the muscles of ambulation has been identified as a source of a portion of the exercise intolerance these patients experience, and this dysfunction has been shown to be, at least in part, remediable. Mechanisms inducing muscle dysfunction include disuse atrophy, malnutrition, low levels of anabolic steroids, and myopathy from corticosteroid use. Endurance exercise training has been conclusively demonstrated to improve exercise tolerance in COPD. Recent studies suggest that strength training is beneficial as well. A new frontier of therapy for muscle dysfunction in COPD is the use of anabolic hormones. Testosterone supplementation has been shown to increase muscle mass and strength in both hypogonadal and eugonadal healthy men. Low-dose testosterone supplementation is being considered for use in postmenopausal women. Though short-term administration of testosterone in moderate doses seems to be well tolerated in both men and women, further studies are required before safety and effectiveness can be established for routine use in COPD patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / adverse effects
  • Androgens / therapeutic use
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / complications
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / rehabilitation
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Muscular Diseases / etiology
  • Muscular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Muscular Diseases / therapy
  • Sex Factors
  • Testosterone / therapeutic use


  • Androgens
  • Testosterone