Background: Several studies have indicated that one of the most potent mediators involved in pulmonary vascular remodeling is vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). This study was designed to determine whether airway VEGF level reflects pulmonary vascular remodeling in patients with bronchitis-type of COPD.
Methods: VEGF levels in induced sputum were examined in 23 control subjects (12 non-smokers and 11 ex-smokers) and 29 patients with bronchitis-type of COPD. All bronchitis-type patients performed exercise testing with right heart catheterization.
Results: The mean pulmonary arterial pressure (mPAP) and pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR) after exercise were markedly increased in all bronchitis-type patients. However, both parameters after exercise with breathing of oxygen was significantly lower than in those with breathing of room air. To attenuate the effect of hypoxia-induced pulmonary vasoconstriction during exercise, we used the change in mPAP or PVR during exercise with breathing of oxygen as a parameter of pulmonary vascular remodeling. Change in mPAP was significantly correlated with VEGF level in induced sputum from patients with chronic bronchitis (r = 0.73, p = 0.0001). Moreover, change in PVR was also correlated with VEGF level in those patients (r = 0.57, p = 0.003).
Conclusion: A close correlation between magnitude of pulmonary hypertension with exercise and VEGF level in bronchitis-type patients could be observed. Therefore, these findings suggest the possibility that VEGF level in induced sputum is a non-invasive marker of pulmonary vascular remodeling in patients with bronchitis-type of COPD.