Objective: The circulating blood levels of several inflammatory cytokines and acute phase proteins are higher in patients with stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, whether or not these inflammatory markers increase during COPD exacerbation or are modified by corticosteroid treatment has not been investigated. The objective of this study was therefore 1) to describe changes in several inflammatory markers in systemic circulation during COPD exacerbation, and 2) to assess the potential effects of corticosteroid treatment during exacerbation.
Methods: Serum levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin 6 (IL-6), interleukin 8 (IL-8) and C-reactive protein (CRP) were determined for 10 patients (65 2 years old) with severe COPD (FEV1 35 4% reference) who were hospitalized for acute respiratory failure (PaO2 57 2 mm Hg; PaCO2 48 3 mm Hg). Blood samples were obtained in the emergency room (before starting intravenous corticosteroid treatment), during the first 24 hours of admission, upon discharge and two months later. Eight healthy non-smokers of a similar age (54 3 years) were also studied as control subjects.
Results: The COPD patients had higher concentrations of IL-6 (5.1 1.6 vs. 1.8 0.5 pg/mL, p < 0.05) and CRP (2.2 0.4 vs. 0.6 0.2 mg/dL, p < 0.005) than did controls, but the concentrations of IL-8 were similar (29 11.3 vs. 34.7 10.3 pg/mL, p = ns). No statistically significant changes were seen either during recovery, in spite of intravenous corticosteroid treatment, or two months after discharge.The ELISA test used was unable to detect TNF-alpha in any of the samples obtained from either patients or controls.
Conclusion: The results show that 1) there is evidence of systemic inflammation during exacerbation of COPD, and 2) such systemic inflammation does not appear to be influenced significantly by intravenous corticosteroid treatment.