Symptoms of airway reflux predict exacerbations and quality of life in bronchiectasis

Respir Med. 2013 Jul;107(7):1008-13. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2013.04.006. Epub 2013 May 15.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bronchiectasis / complications*
  • Bronchiectasis / drug therapy
  • Bronchiectasis / microbiology
  • Bronchiectasis / physiopathology
  • Cough / etiology
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / physiology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / etiology*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sputum / chemistry
  • Vital Capacity / physiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Inflammation Mediators