Biomarkers and clinical outcomes in COPD: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Thorax. 2019 May;74(5):439-446. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2018-211855. Epub 2019 Jan 7.


Background: Conventional measures to evaluate COPD may fail to capture systemic problems, particularly musculoskeletal weakness and cardiovascular disease. Identifying these manifestations and assessing their association with clinical outcomes (ie, mortality, exacerbation and COPD hospital admission) is of increasing clinical importance.

Objective: To assess associations between 6 min walk distance (6MWD), heart rate, fibrinogen, C reactive protein (CRP), white cell count (WCC), interleukins 6 and 8 (IL-6 and IL-8), tumour necrosis factor-alpha, quadriceps maximum voluntary contraction, sniff nasal inspiratory pressure, short physical performance battery, pulse wave velocity, carotid intima-media thickness and augmentation index and clinical outcomes in patients with stable COPD.

Methods: We systematically searched electronic databases (August 2018) and identified 61 studies, which were synthesised, including meta-analyses to estimate pooled HRs, following Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines.

Results: Shorter 6MWD and elevated heart rate, fibrinogen, CRP and WCC were associated with higher risk of mortality. Pooled HRs were 0.80 (95% CI 0.73 to 0.89) per 50 m longer 6MWD, 1.10 (95% CI 1.02 to 1.18) per 10 bpm higher heart rate, 3.13 (95% CI 2.14 to 4.57) per twofold increase in fibrinogen, 1.17 (95% CI 1.06 to 1.28) per twofold increase in CRP and 2.07 (95% CI 1.29 to 3.31) per twofold increase in WCC. Shorter 6MWD and elevated fibrinogen and CRP were associated with exacerbation, and shorter 6MWD, higher heart rate, CRP and IL-6 were associated with hospitalisation. Few studies examined associations with musculoskeletal measures.

Conclusion: Findings suggest 6MWD, heart rate, CRP, fibrinogen and WCC are associated with clinical outcomes in patients with stable COPD. Use of musculoskeletal measures to assess outcomes in patients with COPD requires further investigation.

Trial registration number: CRD42016052075.

Keywords: copd epidemiology.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Exercise Test
  • Hemodynamics / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Biomarkers