Aim: We have explored the association of the upper airway symptoms related to cough with exacerbation frequency, sputum microbiology and inflammatory markers in patients with non cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis.
Methods: Patients with bronchiectasis completed the Hull Airway Reflux Questionnaire (HARQ). A score of >13 was taken to indicate the presence of reflux. Patients were followed-up with longitudinal spirometry, sputum culture and Leicester cough questionnaire (LCQ). Myeloperoxidase (MPO), free neutrophil elastase (NE) activity, Interleukin (IL)-8 and Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF)-α was measured from spontaneous sputum samples.
Results: 163 completed the study. 59.5% were female. Mean age was 65.7 years. 73.6% reported airway reflux using HARQ. Patients with airway reflux had more severe cough symptoms as assessed by the LCQ [15.2 (3.5) vs. 19.4 (1.9)], p < 0.001. Sputum levels of MPO, NE, IL-8 and TNF-α were all significantly higher in the reflux positive group (p < 0.05 for all comparisons). In a multivariable logistic regression, airway reflux was independently associated with cough severity (-3.27, standard error 0.81, p = 0.0002). Airway reflux, age, FEV1 % predicted and colonization with Pseudomonas aeruginosa were independently associated with an increased risk of ≥3 bronchiectasis exacerbations in one year.
Conclusion: The symptoms of airway reflux independently predict severity and exacerbation frequency in non cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis.
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