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Deborah Leader, RN

Do Beta Blockers Worsen Respiratory Status in COPD?

By December 13, 2009

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Beta blockers have been known to decrease mortality rates in patients who have conditions like congestive heart failure, heart disease or high blood pressure. This is great news, but what about patients who have one of these conditions who also suffer from COPD? Because one of the side effects of beta blockers is bronchoconstriction, are COPD patients able to safely take beta blockers without experiencing a worsening in respiratory status?

In a meta-analysis of 19 clinical controlled trials, this question was investigated as scientists assessed the differences in FEV1 response to a beta blocker and patient reported respiratory symptoms. Researchers concluded that patients who received cardioselective drugs such as metroprolol, atenolol or bisoprolol, did not experience a significant reduction in FEV1, a worsening of COPD symptoms, or a decreased responsiveness to a beta agonist. Similar results were also reported for an analysis of patients with severe COPD. The study concluded that cardioselective beta blockers should not be withheld from COPD patients.

What should you do with this information? If you have a heart condition that would benefit from the use of a beta blocker, talk with your health care provider about which one would be safest for you to use in spite of a diagnosis of COPD. When taking a medication such as a beta blocker for a heart condition, take only as directed. Never take a medication that is not prescribed for you.

If you do experience a worsening of shortness of breath or other serious side effects while taking a beta blocker, be sure to notify your health care provider as soon as possible to determine the best possible course of action.

December 13, 2009 at 6:51 pm
(1) Kooky says:

I was prescribed with a beta blocker when I first started having high blood pressure problems, but it made me retain so much fluid, I looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. I think it was like 20 pounds of fluid. I was taken off of the beta blocker and put on a calcium channel blocker. I also take a diuretic.

December 14, 2009 at 7:46 am
(2) carol terwilliger says:

I have been taking atenlol for about five years and have not noticed a difference in by copd-I take 50 mg a day-Ann

December 14, 2009 at 11:44 am
(3) Deborah says:

Kooky: That is a bummer that you had that happen. I hope the calcium channel blocker works better for you.

Carol: Atenolol is one of those mentioned that are cardioselective and safe to use. Good job.

December 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm
(4) Shelley says:

I have severe COPD and I was recently diagnosed with dystolic heart failure, still in the “mild” stage at this point.
I also started taking metopropolol (sp), a beta blocker. Although I have read that beta blockers can cause breathing problems for some people with COPD, I have experienced the opposite. I use oxygen and I was able to turn it down, the headaches are gone, and I feel “normal” for the first time in a year or longer.
I hope if anybody else has COPD and heart failure and they are put on a beta blocker, they experience the same effects as I have. Oh, and my blood pressure has returned to normal, averaging 120/60.
I did have a little dizziness and lightheadedness the first day that I started taking the Metopropolol but that went away.

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