Cough in Ambulatory Immunocompromised Adults: CHEST Expert Panel Report

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Cough is a common symptom prompting patients to seek medical care. Like patients in the general population, patients with compromised immune systems also seek care for cough. However, it is unclear whether the causes of cough in immunocompromised patients who are deemed unlikely to have a life-threating condition and a normal or unchanged chest radiograph are similar to those in persons with cough and normal immune systems.

METHODS:

We conducted a systematic review to answer the question: What are the most common causes of cough in ambulatory immunodeficient adults with normal chest radiographs? Studies of patients ≥ 18 years of age with immune deficiency, cough of any duration, and normal or unchanged chest radiographs were included and assessed for relevance and quality. Based on the systematic review, suggestions were developed and voted on using the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) methodology framework.

RESULTS:

The results of the systematic review revealed no high-quality evidence to guide the clinician in determining the likely causes of cough specifically in immunocompromised ambulatory patients with normal chest radiographs.

CONCLUSIONS:

Based on a systematic review, we found no evidence to assess whether or not the proper initial evaluation of cough in immunocompromised patients is different from that in immunocompetent persons. A consensus of the panel suggested that the initial diagnostic algorithm should be similar to that for immunocompetent persons but that the context of the type and severity of the immune defect, geographic location, and social determinants be considered. The major modifications to the 2006 CHEST Cough Guidelines are the suggestions that TB should be part of the initial evaluation of patients with cough and HIV infection who reside in regions with a high prevalence of TB, regardless of the radiographic findings, and that specific causes and immune defects be considered in all patients in whom the initial evaluation is unrevealing.

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