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Low income as a determinant of exercise capacity in COPD.


Exercise capacity (EC) is a critical outcome in chronic obstructive lung disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)). It measures the impact of the disease and the effect of specific interventions like pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). EC determines COPD prognosis and is associated with health-care utilization and quality of life. Field walking tests and cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET) are two ways to measure EC. The 6-minute walking test (6MWT) is the commonest and easiest field test. CPET has the advantage of assessing maximal aerobic capacity. Determinants of EC include age, gender, breathlessness, and lung function. Previous research suggests that socioeconomic status (SES), a meaningful factor in COPD, may also be associated with EC. However, those findings have not been replicated. We aimed to determine whether SES is an independent factor associated with EC in COPD. For this analysis, we used the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT) database. NETT was a multicenter clinical trial where severe COPD patients were randomized to lung volume reduction surgery or medical therapy. Measures used were taken at baseline, postrehabilitation. Patients self-reported their income and were divided in two groups whether it was less or above US$30,000. Patients with a lower income had worse results in 6MWT ( p < 0.0001). We found an independent association between income and the 6MWT in patients with severe COPD after adjusting for age, gender, lung function, dyspnea, and living conditions ( p < 0.0007). One previous publication stated the relationship between income and EC. Our research confirms and extends previous publications associating EC with income by studying a large and well characterized cohort of severe COPD patients, also addressing EC by two different methods (maximal watts and 6MWT). Our results highlight the importance of addressing social determinants of health such as income when assessing COPD patients.

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