Previous studies have shown that patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) of severe or very severe airflow limitation have a reduced pectoralis muscle area (PMA), which is associated with mortality. However, whether patients with COPD of mild or moderate airflow limitation also have a reduced PMA remains unclear. Additionally, limited evidence is available regarding the associations between PMA and respiratory symptoms, lung function, computed tomography (CT) imaging, lung function decline, and exacerbations. Therefore, we conducted this study to evaluate the presence of PMA reduction in COPD and to clarify its associations with the referred variables.
This study was based on the subjects enrolled from July 2019 to December 2020 in the Early Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (ECOPD) study. Data including questionnaire, lung function, and CT imaging were collected. The PMA was quantified on full-inspiratory CT at the aortic arch level using predefined -50 and 90 Hounsfield unit attenuation ranges. Multivariate linear regression analyses were performed to assess the association between the PMA and airflow limitation severity, respiratory symptoms, lung function, emphysema, air trapping, and the annual decline in lung function. Cox proportional hazards analysis and Poisson regression analysis were used to evaluate the PMA and exacerbations after adjustment.
We included 1352 subjects at baseline (667 with normal spirometry, 685 with spirometry-defined COPD). The PMA was monotonically lower with progressive airflow limitation severity of COPD after adjusting for confounders (vs. normal spirometry; Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease [GOLD] 1: β=-1.27, P=0.028; GOLD 2: β=-2.29, P<0.001; GOLD 3: β=-4.88, P<0.001; GOLD 4: β=-6.47, P=0.014). The PMA was negatively associated with the modified British Medical Research Council dyspnea scale (β=-0.005, P=0.026), COPD Assessment Test score (β=-0.06, P=0.001), emphysema (β=-0.07, P<0.001), and air trapping (β=-0.24, P<0.001) after adjustment. The PMA was positively associated with lung function (all P<0.05). Similar associations were discovered for the pectoralis major muscle area and pectoralis minor muscle area. After the 1-year follow-up, the PMA was associated with the annual decline in the post-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 s percent of predicted value (β=0.022, P=0.002) but not with the annual rate of exacerbations or the time to first exacerbation.
Patients with mild or moderate airflow limitation exhibit a reduced PMA. The PMA is associated with airflow limitation severity, respiratory symptoms, lung function, emphysema, and air trapping, suggesting that PMA measurement can assist with COPD assessment.

Copyright © 2023. Published by Elsevier España, S.L.U.