Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by inflammation of the lung in association with airflow obstruction. There is increasing evidence of upper airway involvement in COPD and we have reported that this nasal inflammation is proportional to that in the lung. Given recognized relationships between lower airway inflammation and spirometric indices such as the Forced Expiratory Volume in one second (FEV(1)), we hypothesized that there may be a relationship between nasal obstruction and FEV(1) in COPD. We also sought to investigate relationships between nasal symptoms and nasal patency in COPD.
Methods: We assessed the nasal and pulmonary airways, using acoustic rhinometry and spirometry respectively, in 51 patients with COPD.
Results: The presence of chronic nasal symptoms in COPD was associated with reduced nasal patency (6.04 cm(2) symptoms vs. 9.55 cm(2) no symptoms, at the second minimum cross-sectional area, P = 0.049). Nasal patency in COPD was inversely proportional to pulmonary airflow obstruction, and therefore to COPD disease severity (e.g. FEV(1)% predicted vs. second minimum cross-sectional area, r = 0.36, P = 0.009).
Conclusions: The degree of nasal airway obstruction in COPD reflects the impairment to pulmonary airflow, and is greater in the presence of chronic nasal symptoms. This study provides further evidence of pan-airway involvement in COPD.