Among patients on long-term oxygen therapy for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), women are more likely to die from the disease than men.
This study appears in the first issue for September 2006 of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.
Maria-Christina L. Machado, M.D., Ph.D., of the State Public Hospital of So Paulo in Brazil, and seven associates assessed 435 oxygen-dependent patients with COPD. Of the group, 184 women and 251 men were observed while on long-term oxygen therapy over a seven-year period.
After considering such factors as age, pack-years smoked, lung function test results and weight, investigators found females to be at a significantly higher risk for death from the disease.
"We found that women had a 54 percent increase in the risk of death after initiating long-term oxygen therapy compared with the men," said Dr. Machado.
The primary risk factor for developing COPD is smoking. The illness is characterized by chronic bronchitis and severe emphysema, which frequently co-exist, obstructing airflow to the lungs and interfering with normal breathing.
COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., and the fifth in Brazil. In 2002, 10.7 million U.S. adults were estimated to have this debilitating disease. In 2004, the cost to the nation for COPD was $37.2 billion in direct and indirect health care costs.
"The only therapeutic regimen that has been shown to improve life expectancy in these patients is oxygen therapy," said Dr. Machado. "Interestingly, we found that men and women exhibited similar survival rates during the initial follow-up period. Differences in survival became more apparent only after three years of follow-up. The clinical management for COPD for both groups was similar and was based on the latest treatment guidelines."