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Effect of theophylline on exercise capacity in COPD patients treated with combination long-acting bronchodilator therapy: a pilot study

Authors Voduc N, Alvarez, Amjadi, Tessier, Sabri, Aaron

Received 19 January 2012

Accepted for publication 17 February 2012

Published 29 March 2012 Volume 2012:7 Pages 245—252


Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Nha Voduc1, Gonzalo G Alvarez1, Kayvan Amjadi1, Caroline Tessier2, Elham Sabri3, Shawn D Aaron1

1University of Ottawa, Division of Respirology, 2The Ottawa Hospital (General Campus), 3OHRI Methods Centre, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Background: Many patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease continue to experience significant functional limitation despite the use of both long-acting anticholinergic and beta-agonist inhalers. Theophylline is a widely available medication which may further improve lung function and exercise performance. Previous studies evaluating the effects of theophylline on exercise capacity in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have demonstrated heterogeneous results.
Methods: We performed a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind pilot study assessing the effects of theophylline on constant load exercise duration and lung function, involving 24 COPD patients already treated with long-acting inhaled beta-agonist and long-acting anticholinergic bronchodilator therapy.
Results: Analyzable data was available in 10 of 12 subjects in the treatment arm and 11 of 12 subjects in the control arm. Theophylline was associated with a 26.1% (95% confidence interval [CI]: –17.3–69.5) improvement in exercise duration compared to placebo. Four of 10 treated patients demonstrated an improvement in exercise duration exceeding the minimum clinically important difference of 33%, compared to 1 of 11 controls (P = 0.15). Furthermore, peak ventilation was reduced by 11.1%, (95% CI: 0.77–21.5) which may suggest improvements in gas exchange. There were no significant observed differences in resting lung function nor measures of dyspnea between the two treatment groups.
Conclusions: Our study demonstrated a trend, but not a statistically significant improvement in exercise duration and a reduction in peak ventilation with theophylline. Based on the observed mean differences and standard deviations in this pilot study, a randomized controlled trial would require 45 subjects in each arm to detect a significant change in exercise duration.

Keywords: theophylline, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, exercise capacity

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