Sputum quantitative cytometry in patients with interstitial lung disease and chronic cough
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BACKGROUND: Chronic cough frequently occurs in patients with diffuse interstitial lung diseases (ILDs), and can have negative effects on quality-of-life. While there are multiple possible contributors to cough in this setting, the contribution and consequences of airway inflammation have not been previously measured. We aimed to estimate the prevalence of airway cellular inflammation in patients with chronic cough and ILD, and examine the interaction between airway inflammation and changes in lung function. METHODS: We examined all patients with physician-diagnosed ILD and chronic cough who had sputum quantitative cytometry ordered between 2004 and 2018. The prevalence of airway inflammation was estimated by applying previously established criteria for bronchitis. FEV1 and FVC were compared between individuals based on the presence of airway inflammation. The changes in FEV1 and FVC were compared between individuals who had their treatment tailored to their sputum result, and those who did not. RESULTS: Airway inflammation was present in 50% of patients (n = 173), and was associated with lower FEV1 (1.87 vs 2.05 L, p = 0.043) and FVC (2.39 vs 2.71, p = 0.024). Sputum-guided management of airway eosinophilia was associated with improvements in FEV1 (+120 vs -205mL, p < 0.0001) and stability of FVC (+13 vs -284mL, p = 0.003). CONCLUSIONS: Airway inflammation is common in patients with chronic cough and ILD, and its presence may negatively affect lung function. Further research is required to understand if there is a role for quantitative sputum cytometry in this population, particularly if sputum-guided management of airway inflammation could lead to improvements in cough and other ILD outcomes.
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