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Open Access Research article

Elevated placenta growth factor predicts pneumonia in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease under inhaled corticosteroids therapy

Shih-Lung Cheng123, Hao-Chien Wang3*, Shih-Jung Cheng4 and Chong-Jen Yu3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, Far Eastern Memorial Hospital, Pan-Chiao, Taipei, Taiwan

2 Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Yuan-Ze University; Taoyuan, Taiwan

3 Department of Internal Medicine, National Taiwan University Hospital, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan

4 Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Department of Dentistry, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2011, 11:46  doi:10.1186/1471-2466-11-46

Published: 30 September 2011



An increased incidence of pneumonia in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) under inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) therapy was noticed in previous studies. We performed a prospective study to elucidate the risk factors for the development of pneumonia in this group of patients.


A prospective, non-randomized study with patients diagnosed as having COPD from 2007 to 2008 identified in the Far Eastern Memorial Hospital were recruited. We recorded data for all patients, including clinical features and signs, demographic data, lung function status, and medications. Bio-markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and placenta growth factor (PlGF) were checked at first diagnosis. Every acute exacerbation was also recorded, especially pneumonia events, which were confirmed by chest radiography. Multivariate analysis was performed with stepwise logistic regression for pneumonia risk factors.


274 patients were diagnosed as having COPD during the study period and 29 patients suffered from pneumonia with a prevalence of 10.6%. The rate was significantly higher in patients with ICS therapy (20/125, 16%) compared with those without ICS (9/149, 6%) (p = 0.02). We stratified ICS therapy into medium dose (500-999 ug/day fluticasone equivalent, 71 patients) and high dose (1000 ug/day and higher fluticasone equivalent, 54 patients) group. There was no statistical difference in the incidence of pneumonia between these two group (medium dose: 13/71, 18.3% vs. high dose: 7/54, 12.9%, p = 0.47). Multivariate analysis was performed to identify the risk factors for developing pneumonia and included forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) less than 40% of predicted (odds ratio (OR) 2.2, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.1-6.9), ICS prescription ((OR) 2.4, 95% (CI): 1.3-8.7), the presence of diabetes mellitus (DM) (OR 2.6, 95% CI: 1.2-9.4) and PlGF level over 40 pg/L (OR 4.1, 95% CI: 1.5-9.9).


ICS therapy in patients with COPD increased the risk of pneumonia. However, there was no relationship between the incidence of pneumonia and dosage of ICS. Additionally, advanced COPD status, DM and elevated PlGF level were independent risk factors for the development of pneumonia. PlGF would be a good novel biomarker for predicting pneumonia.

chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; placenta growth factor; inhaled corticosteroids