Background: Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common life threatening autosomal recessive disorder in the white population. Wasting has long been recognised as a poor prognostic marker in CF. Whether it predicts survival independently of lung function and arterial blood gas tensions has not previously been reported.
Methods: 584 patients with CF (261 women) of mean (SD) age 21 (7) years were studied between 1985 and 1996, all of whom were being followed up in a tertiary referral centre. Lung function tests, body weight, arterial blood oxygen (PaO(2)) and carbon dioxide (PaCO(2)) tensions were measured. The weight was calculated as a percentage of the ideal body weight for age, height, and sex.
Results: Forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV(1)) recorded at the start of the study was 1.8 (1.0) l (52 (26)% predicted FEV(1)), PaO(2) 9.8 (1.9) kPa, PaCO(2) 5.0 (0.9) kPa, and % ideal weight 92 (18)%. During the follow up period (45 (27) months) 137 patients died (5 year survival 72%, 95% CI 67 to 73). FEV(1), % predicted FEV(1), PaO(2), % ideal weight (all p<0.0001), and PaCO(2) (p=0.04) predicted survival. In multivariate analysis, % predicted FEV(1) (p<0.0001), % ideal weight (p=0.004), and PaCO(2) (p=0.02) were independent predictors of outcome. Patients with >85% ideal body weight had a better prognosis at 5 years (cumulative survival 84%, 95% CI 79 to 89) than those with < or =85% ideal weight (survival 53%, 95% CI 45 to 62), p<0.0001. Percentage predicted FEV(1) (area under curve 0.83; 95% CI 0.78 to 0.87) and % ideal weight (area under curve 0.74; 95% CI 0.68 to 0.79) were accurate predictors of survival at 5 years follow up (receiver-operating characteristic analysis).
Conclusions: Body wasting is a significant predictor of survival in patients with CF independent of lung function, arterial blood oxygen and carbon dioxide tensions.