Should You Recommend Inhaled Corticosteroids for This Patient With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?

Annals Beyond the Guidelines

Approximately 12 million adults in the United States receive a diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) each year, and it is the fourth leading cause of death. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow obstruction and a constellation of symptoms, including cough, sputum production, and shortness of breath. The main risk factor for COPD is tobacco smoke, but other environmental exposures also may contribute. The GOLD (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) 2020 Report aims to provide a nonbiased review of the current evidence for the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of patients with COPD. To date, no conclusive evidence exists that any existing medications for COPD modify mortality. The mainstay of treatment for COPD is inhaled bronchodilators, whereas the role of inhaled corticosteroids is less clear. Inhaled corticosteroids have substantial risks, including an increased risk for pneumonia. Here, 2 experts, both pulmonologists, reflect on the care of a woman with severe COPD, a 50–pack-year smoking history, frequent COPD exacerbations, and recurrent pneumonia. They consider the indications for inhaled corticosteroids in COPD, when inhaled corticosteroids should be withdrawn, and what other treatments are available.


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Annals Beyond the Guidelines

From Annals of Internal Medicine (, Beyond the Guidelines is an educational feature based on recent guidelines. Each considers a patient (or patients) who "falls between the cracks" of available evidence and for whom the optimal clinical course in unclear. Presented at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) Grand Rounds, each conference reviews the background evidence and experts then discuss the patient(s) and field audience questions. Videos of the interviews and conference, the slide presentation, and a CME/MOC activity accompany each module.