Evidence is weak for the ability of long-term non-invasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) to improve survival in patients with stable hypercapnic chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Previous prospective studies did not target a reduction in hypercapnia when adjusting ventilator settings. This study investigated the effect of long-term NPPV, targeted to markedly reduce hypercapnia, on survival in patients with advanced, stable hypercapnic COPD.
This investigator-initiated, prospective, multicentre, randomised, controlled clinical trial enrolled patients with stable GOLD stage IV COPD and a partial carbon dioxide pressure (PaCO2) of 7 kPa (51.9 mm Hg) or higher and pH higher than 7.35. NPPV was targeted to reduce baseline PaCO2 by at least 20% or to achieve PaCO2 values lower than 6.5 kPa (48.1 mm Hg). Patients were randomly assigned (in a 1:1 ratio) via a computer-generated randomisation sequence with a block size of four, to continue optimised standard treatment (control group) or to receive additional NPPV for at least 12 months (intervention group). The primary outcome was 1-year all-cause mortality. Analysis was by intention to treat. The intervention was unblinded, but outcome assessment was blinded to treatment assignment. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00710541.
Patients were recruited from 36 respiratory units in Germany and Austria, starting on Oct 29, 2004, and terminated with a record of the vital status on July 31, 2011. 195 patients were randomly assigned to the NPPV group (n=102) or to the control group (n=93). All patients from the control group and the NPPV group were included in the primary analysis. 1-year mortality was 12% (12 of 102 patients) in the intervention group and 33% (31 of 93 patients) in the control group; hazard ratio 0.24 (95% CI 0.11-0.49; p=0.0004). 14 (14%) patients reported facial skin rash, which could be managed by changing the type of the mask. No other intervention-related adverse events were reported.
The addition of long-term NPPV to standard treatment improves survival of patients with hypercapnic, stable COPD when NPPV is targeted to greatly reduce hypercapnia.
German Lung Foundation; ResMed, Germany; Tyco Healthcare, Germany; and Weinmann, Germany.