Contemporary issues in refractory dyspnoea in advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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Purpose of reviewRelieving dyspnoea when chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) no longer responds to disease-modifying therapy is challenging, with limited evidence to provide guidance. This review highlights recent advances that further our understanding and management of refractory dyspnoea in COPD, focusing on interventions that are considered beyond the conventional treatment of airflow obstruction/hyperinflation.Recent findingsAdvances in functional brain imaging have improved our understanding of limbic system activation in dyspnoea, providing insight into potential for targeted treatments. Qualitative research is defining the complexities of the multidimensional aspects of dyspnoea, supporting the need to address dyspnoea-related affective distress in prospective outcomes-based research. Studies evaluating inhaled furosemide in exertional dyspnoea and palliative noninvasive ventilation in advanced disease support ongoing work in this area. In addition, recent advances in delivery of rapidly acting opioids offer intriguing potential for management of incidental dyspnoea in advanced disease.SummaryImproved understanding of the nature of dyspnoea in advanced COPD, advances in symptom mapping and noninvasive ventilatory support along with the potential of novel treatments offer hope that we can improve the management of refractory dyspnoea in COPD. Where evidence is lacking, we outline options that merit further evaluation.

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