Increased Risk of Exacerbation in Asthma Predominant Asthma-Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Overlap Syndrome

Tuberc Respir Dis (Seoul). 2018 Oct;81(4):289-298. doi: 10.4046/trd.2017.0064. Epub 2018 Mar 7.


Background: Obstructive airway disease patients with increased variability of airflow and incompletely reversible airflow obstruction are often categorized as having asthma-chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) overlap syndrome (ACOS). ACOS is heterogeneous with two sub-phenotypes: asthma-ACOS and COPD-ACOS. The objective of this study was to determine the difference in risk of exacerbation between the two sub-phenotypes of ACOS.

Methods: A total of 223 patients exhibiting incompletely reversible airflow obstruction with increased variability (spirometrically defined ACOS) were enrolled. These patients were divided into asthma-ACOS and COPD-ACOS according to their physician's diagnosis and smoking history of 10 pack-years. Within-group comparisons were made for asthma-ACOS versus COPD-ACOS and light smokers versus heavy smokers.

Results: Compared to patients with COPD-ACOS, patients with asthma-ACOS experienced exacerbation more often despite their younger age, history of light smoking, and better lung function. While the light-smoking group showed better lung function, they made unscheduled outpatient clinic visits more frequently. On multivariate analysis, asthma-ACOS and poor inhaler compliance were significantly associated with more than two unscheduled clinic visits during the previous year.

Conclusion: Spirometrically defined ACOS includes heterogeneous subgroups with different clinical features. Phenotyping of ACOS by physician's diagnosis could be significant in predicting future risk of exacerbation.

Keywords: Asthma; Phenotype; Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive.