Objective: To investigate the relationship between lung function and dermal elastic fibres in non-smokers and smokers with and without chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Method: A cross-sectional study was performed with lung function as the outcome [forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1)%, FEV1/forced vital capacity (FVC)% and residual volume (RV)/total lung capacity (TLC)%] and smoking (pack-years) and morphology of dermal elastic fibres (fibres/mm(2) and percentage histologic field filled with them) as independent variables, with assessment of the associations between these variables by univariate and multivariate testing.
Results: Sixty outpatients reporting chronic cough and/or phle\gm were enrolled (16 non-smokers/44 smokers; COPD: 26, 43.3%). Both lung function and elastic fibres in the reticular dermis (fibres/mm(2)r(s) = 0.36, percentage of the histologic field filled by elastic fibres r(s) = 0.48, P < or = 0.01) correlated with cumulative smoking (Spearman's rank correlation coefficient). Lung function parameters correlated with percentage of the histologic field filled by elastic fibres (FEV1%: r = -0.43; FEV1/FVC%: r = -0.36 and RV/TLC%: r = 0.43; P < or = 0.01, Pearson correlation coefficient), and COPD was significantly related to this morphologic parameter (odds ratio 1.26, 95% confidence interval 1.06-1.48; P = 0.006), associations that depended mainly on cumulative smoking.
Conclusion: Lung function impairment with an obstructive pattern is associated with morphologic abnormalities in the reticular dermis appearing in the histologic section as an increase in the percentage of the field filled by elastic fibres. This relationship depends on cumulative smoking and suggests a common effect of smoking on the elastic fibres in both lung and skin.