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Journal: European respiratory review : an official journal of the European Respiratory Society


The presence of acute or chronic respiratory failure is often seen as a terminal phase of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A great variability in end-of-life practice is observed in these patients mainly because physicians are not always able to correctly predict survival. There is a need for a clear discussion about decision making earlier than when acute respiratory failure ensues. Indeed, a perceived poor quality of life does not necessarily correlate with a clear willingness to refuse invasive or noninvasive mechanical ventilation. It has been suggested to start palliative care earlier, together with curative and restorative care, when there is an increased intensity of symptoms. The patients eligible for palliative care are those complaining of breathlessness, pain, fatigue and depression, which in some studies accounted for a prevalence much higher than 50%. Among comfort measures for palliation, oxygen is frequently prescribed even when the criteria for long-term home oxygen therapy are not met; however, when compared with air, no benefits on dyspnoea have been found. The only drug with a proven effect on dyspnoea is morphine, but not when it is delivered with a nebuliser. Finally, noninvasive ventilation may be used only as a comfort measure for palliation to maximise comfort by minimising adverse effects.

Concepts: Pulmonology, Pneumonia, Mechanical ventilation, Palliative care, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Palliative medicine, End-of-life care, Terminal sedation


Asthma is a chronic, inflammatory lung disease affecting around 235 million people worldwide. Conventional medications in asthma are not curative and patients have significant concerns regarding their side-effects. Consequently, many asthma patients turn to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for a more holistic approach to care. We systematically reviewed the available evidence on the effectiveness of CAM in the management of asthma in adults.We searched the MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, AMED and Cochrane databases for randomised controlled trials published in English between 1990 and 2016 investigating the effectiveness of oral or topical CAM in asthmatic adults. The quality of the studies was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Assessment Tool.In all, 23 eligible trials were identified covering 19 different CAMs. Overall, there was limited evidence on the effectiveness of CAM in adult asthma as most CAMs were only assessed in a single trial. CAMs with multiple trials provided null or inconsistent results. Many of the trials were rated as having high risk of bias.The existing evidence is insufficient to recommend any of the oral and topical CAMs in the management of asthma in adults.

Concepts: Inflammation, Medicine, Asthma, Evidence-based medicine, Systematic review, Randomized controlled trial, Alternative medicine, Chiropractic


Pulmonary vascular and cardiac impairment is increasingly appreciated as a major adverse factor in the natural history of interstitial lung disease. This clinically orientated review focuses on the current concepts in the pathogenesis, pathophysiology and implications of the detrimental sequence of increased pulmonary vascular resistance, pre-capillary pulmonary hypertension and right heart failure in interstitial lung disease, and provides guidance on its management.

Concepts: Pulmonology, Lung, Cardiology, Heart failure, Heart, Vein, Pulmonary artery, Tetrapod


The World Health Organization has recently defined the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection a pandemic. The infection, that may cause a potentially very severe respiratory disease, now called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has airborne transmission via droplets. The rate of transmission is quite high, higher than common influenza. Healthcare workers are at high risk of contracting the infection particularly when applying respiratory devices such as oxygen cannulas or noninvasive ventilation. The aim of this article is to provide evidence-based recommendations for the correct use of “respiratory devices” in the COVID-19 emergency and protect healthcare workers from contracting the SARS-CoV-2 infection.


Challenges in the differentiation of the aetiology of acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD) have led to significant overuse of antibiotics. Serum procalcitonin, released in response to bacterial infections, but not viral infections, could possibly identify AECOPD requiring antibiotics. In this meta-analysis we assessed the clinical effectiveness of procalcitonin-based protocols to initiate or discontinue antibiotics in patients presenting with AECOPD.Based on a prospectively registered protocol, we reviewed the literature and selected randomised or quasi-randomised trials comparing procalcitonin-based protocols to initiate or discontinue antibiotics versus standard care in AECOPD. We followed Cochrane and GRADE (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation) guidance to assess risk of bias, quality of evidence and to perform meta-analyses.We included eight trials evaluating 1062 patients with AECOPD. Procalcitonin-based protocols decreased antibiotic prescription (relative risk (RR) 0.56, 95% CI 0.43-0.73) and total antibiotic exposure (mean difference (MD) -3.83, 95% CI (-4.32–3.35)), without affecting clinical outcomes such as rate of treatment failure (RR 0.81, 0.62-1.06), length of hospitalisation (MD -0.76, -1.95-0.43), exacerbation recurrence rate (RR 0.96, 0.69-1.35) or mortality (RR 0.99, 0.58-1.69). However, the quality of the available evidence is low to moderate, because of methodological limitations and small overall study population.Procalcitonin-based protocols appear to be clinically effective; however, confirmatory trials with rigorous methodology are required.

Concepts: Medicine, Bacteria, Virus, Evaluation, Infection, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Penicillin, Clostridium difficile


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a challenging respiratory problem throughout the world. Although survival is prolonged with new therapies and better management, the magnitude of the burden resulting from moderate-to-severe disease is increasing. One of the major aims of the disease management is to try to break the vicious cycle of patients being homebound and to promote an active lifestyle. A fundamental component of active daily life is, of course, travelling. Today, the world is getting smaller with the option of travelling by air. Air travel is usually the most preferred choice as it is easy, time saving, and relatively inexpensive. Although it is a safe choice for many passengers, the environment inside the aeroplane may sometimes have adverse effects on health. Hypobaric hypoxaemia due to cabin altitude may cause health risks in COPD patients who have limited cardiopulmonary reserve. Addressing the potential risks of air travel, promoting proactive strategies including pre-flight assessment, and education of COPD patients about the “fitness to fly” concept are essential. Thus, in this narrative review, we evaluated the current evidence for potential risks of air travel in COPD and tried to give a perspective for how to plan safe air travel for COPD patients.


Noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation (NPPV) to treat acute respiratory failure has expanded tremendously over the world in terms of the spectrum of diseases that can be successfully managed, the locations of its application and achievable goals.The turning point for the successful expansion of NPPV is its ability to achieve the same physiological effects as invasive mechanical ventilation with the avoidance of the life-threatening risks correlated with the use of an artificial airway.Cardiorespiratory arrest, extreme psychomotor agitation, severe haemodynamic instability, nonhypercapnic coma and multiple organ failure are absolute contraindications for NPPV. Moreover, pitfalls of NPPV reduce its rate of success; consistently, a clear plan of what to do in case of NPPV failure should be considered, especially for patients managed in unprotected setting. NPPV failure is likely to be reduced by the application of integrated therapeutic tools in selected patients handled by expert teams.In conclusion, NPPV has to be considered as a rational art and not just as an application of science, which requires the ability of clinicians to both choose case-by-case the best “ingredients” for a “successful recipe” (i.e. patient selection, interface, ventilator, interface, etc) and to avoid a delayed intubation if the ventilation attempt fails.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death worldwide. While COPD is a mainly chronic disease, a substantial number of patients suffer from exacerbations. Severe exacerbations are related to a significantly worse survival outcome. This review summarises the current knowledge on the different aspects of COPD exacerbations. The impact of risk factors and triggers such as smoking, severe airflow limitation, bronchiectasis, bacterial and viral infections and comorbidities is discussed. More severe exacerbations should be treated with β-agonists and anticholinergics as well as systemic corticosteroids. Antibiotic therapy should only be given to patients with presumed bacterial infection. Noninvasive ventilation is indicated in patients with respiratory failure. Smoking cessation is key to prevent further COPD exacerbations. Other aspects include choice of pharmacotherapy, including bronchodilators, inhaled corticosteroids, phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors, long-term antibiotics and mucolytics. Better education and self-management as well as increased physical activity are important. Influenza and pneumococcal vaccination is recommended. Treatment of hypoxaemia and hypercapnia reduce the rate of COPD exacerbations, while most interventional bronchoscopic therapies increase exacerbation risk within the first months after the procedure.

Concepts: Immune system, Medicine, Infectious disease, Asthma, Virus, Pneumonia, Infection, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


Knowledge of the long-term toxicological and immunological effects of e-cigarette (e-cig) aerosols remains elusive due to the relatively short existence of vaping. Therefore, we performed a systematic search of articles published in public databases and analysed the research evidence in order to provide critical information regarding e-cig safety. Electronic nicotine delivery systems (or e-cigs) are an alternative to traditional cigarettes for the delivery of nicotine and are typically filled with glycerol or propylene glycol-based solutions known as e-liquids. Though present in lower quantities, e-cig aerosols are known to contain many of the harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke. However, due to the paucity of experimental data and contradictory evidence, it is difficult to draw conclusive outcomes regarding toxicological, immunological and clinical impacts of e-cig aerosols. Excessive vaping has been reported to induce inflammatory responses including mitogen-activated protein kinase, Janus tyrosine kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription and nuclear factor-κB signalling, similar to that induced by tobacco smoke. Based on recent evidence, prolonged exposure to some constituents of e-cig aerosols might result in respiratory complications such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and inflammation. Future studies are warranted that focus on establishing correlations between e-cig types, generations and e-liquid flavours and immunological and toxicological profiles to broaden our understanding about the effects of vaping.

Concepts: Asthma, Smoking, Tobacco, Tobacco smoking, Cigarette, Nicotine, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Electronic cigarette


A past history of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) is a risk factor for long-term respiratory impairment. Post-TB lung dysfunction often goes unrecognised, despite its relatively high prevalence and its association with reduced quality of life. Importantly, specific host and pathogen factors causing lung impairment remain unclear. Host immune responses probably play a dominant role in lung damage, as excessive inflammation and elevated expression of lung matrix-degrading proteases are common during TB. Variability in host genes that modulate these immune responses may determine the severity of lung impairment, but this hypothesis remains largely untested. In this review, we provide an overview of the epidemiological literature on post-TB lung impairment and link it to data on the pathogenesis of lung injury from the perspective of dysregulated immune responses and immunogenetics.

Concepts: Immune system, Epidemiology, Cancer, Infectious disease, Pulmonology, Lung, Pneumonia, Tuberculosis