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How effective are bronchodilators for the treatment of COPD?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Bronchodilators can provide fast relief of symptoms for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but the effects wear off after a few hours. These drugs do not stop the disease from getting worse. People with an FEV1 less than 60% of predicted value tend to benefit the most from bronchodilators.

A combination of different types of bronchodilators is often more effective than using one alone. Combining a short-acting beta agonist and an anticholinergic can improve symptoms and lung function more than either drug alone. Adding theophylline to a beta agonist or anticholinergic may also improve lung function.

This answer was adapted from Sharecare's award-winning AskMD app. Start a consultation now to find out what's causing your symptoms, learn how to manage a condition, or find a doctor.

For chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchodilators are effective at lessening symptoms, reducing hospital stays and improving lung function, although the data suggests that they do not lengthen life. The various types of bronchodilators are the mainstay treatment for COPD. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.