Importance: Chronic bronchitis has been associated with cigarette smoking as well as with e-cigarette use among young adults, but the association of chronic bronchitis in persons without airflow obstruction or clinical asthma, described as nonobstructive chronic bronchitis, with respiratory health outcomes remains uncertain. Objective: To assess whether nonobstructive chronic bronchitis is associated with adverse respiratory health outcomes in adult ever smokers and never smokers. Design, Setting, and Participants: This prospective cohort study included 22325 adults without initial airflow obstruction (defined as the ratio of forced expiratory volume in the first second [FEV1] to forced vital capacity [FVC] of <0.70) or clinical asthma at baseline. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Pooled Cohorts Study harmonized and pooled data from 9 US general population-based cohorts. Thus present study is based on data from 5 of these cohorts. Participants were enrolled from August 1971 through May 2007 and were followed up through December 2018. Exposures: Nonobstructive chronic bronchitis was defined by questionnaire at baseline as both cough and phlegm for at least 3 months for at least 2 consecutive years. Main Outcomes and Measures: Lung function was measured by prebronchodilator spirometry. Hospitalizations and deaths due to chronic lower respiratory disease and respiratory disease-related mortality were defined by events adjudication and administrative criteria. Models were stratified by smoking status and adjusted for anthropometric, sociodemographic, and smoking-related factors. The comparison group was participants without nonobstructive chronic bronchitis. Results: Among 22325 adults included in the analysis, mean (SD) age was 53.0 (16.3) years (range, 18.0-95.0 years), 58.2% were female, 65.9% were non-Hispanic white, and 49.6% were ever smokers. Among 11082 ever smokers with 99869 person-years of follow-up, participants with nonobstructive chronic bronchitis (300 [2.7%]) had accelerated decreases in FEV1 (4.1 mL/y; 95% CI, 2.1-6.1 mL/y) and FVC (4.7 mL/y; 95% CI, 2.2-7.2 mL/y), increased risks of chronic lower respiratory disease-related hospitalization or mortality (hazard ratio [HR], 2.2; 95% CI, 1.7-2.7), and greater respiratory disease-related (HR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.1-3.8) and all-cause mortality (HR, 1.5; 95% CI, 1.3-1.8) compared with ever smokers without nonobstructive chronic bronchitis. Among 11243 never smokers with 120004 person-years of follow-up, participants with nonobstructive chronic bronchitis (151 [1.3%]) had greater rates of chronic lower respiratory disease-related hospitalization or mortality (HR, 3.1; 95% CI, 2.1-4.5) compared with never smokers without nonobstructive chronic bronchitis. Nonobstructive chronic bronchitis was not associated with FEV1:FVC decline or incident airflow obstruction. The presence of at least 1 of the component symptoms of nonobstructive chronic bronchitis (ie, chronic cough or phlegm), which was common in both ever smokers (11.0%) and never smokers (6.7%), was associated with adverse respiratory health outcomes. Conclusions and Relevance: The findings suggest that nonobstructive chronic bronchitis is associated with adverse respiratory health outcomes, particularly in ever smokers, and may be a high-risk phenotype suitable for risk stratification and targeted therapies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine