Subjective swallowing symptoms and related risk factors in COPD

ERJ Open Res. 2019 Sep 25;5(3):00081-2019. doi: 10.1183/23120541.00081-2019. eCollection 2019 Jul.


Objectives: This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of subjective (i.e. self-reported) swallowing symptoms in a large cohort of patients with stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and to identify potential related risk factors.

Methods: A total of 571 patients with COPD, investigated in a stable phase, participated in this multicentre study (335 females, 236 males; mean age: 68.6 years (sd 7.7)). Data were derived from spirometry, a questionnaire and a 30-metre walking test.

Results: In total, 33% (n=186) patients reported at least some degree of swallowing problem. The most frequently reported symptom was food lodging in the throat (23%). A significant relationship was found between swallowing symptoms and dyspnoea, assessed as modified Medical Research Council (mMRC) ≥2 compared with <2 (46% versus 22%; p<0.001) and health-related quality of life, assessed as the COPD Assessment Test (CAT) ≥10 (40% versus 19%; p<0.001). Swallowing problems were also related to lower physical capacity (p=0.02) but not to lung function (p>0.28).

Conclusion: Subjective swallowing symptoms seem to be a common problem in patients with stable COPD. This problem is seen in all stages of the disease, but is more common in symptomatic patients and in patients with lower physical capacity.