Treatment of lung disease in alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency: a systematic review

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Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University Hospital Birmingham
  • Birmingham Heartlands Hospital


Background: Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) is a rare genetic condition predisposing individuals to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The treatment is generally extrapolated from COPD unrelated to AATD; however, most COPD trials exclude AATD patients; thus, this study sought to systematically review AATD-specific literature to assist evidence-based patient management. Methods: Standard review methodology was used with meta-analysis and narrative synthesis (PROSPERO-CRD42015019354). Eligible studies were those of any treatment used in severe AATD. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were the primary focus; however, case series and uncontrolled studies were eligible. All studies had >10 participants receiving treatment or usual care, with baseline and follow-up data (>3 months). Risk of bias was assessed appropriately according to study methodology. Results: In all, 7,296 studies were retrieved from searches; 52 trials with 5,632 participants met the inclusion criteria, of which 26 studies involved alpha-1 antitrypsin augmentation and 17 concerned surgical treatments (largely transplantation). Studies were grouped into four management themes: COPD medical, COPD surgical, AATD specific, and other treatments. Computed tomography (CT) density, forced expiratory volume in 1 s, diffusing capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide, health status, and exacerbation rates were frequently used as outcomes. Meta-analyses were only possible for RCTs of intravenous augmentation, which slowed progression of emphysema measured by CT density change, 0.79 g/L/year versus placebo (P=0.002), and associated with a small increase in exacerbations 0.29/year (P=0.02). Mortality following lung transplant was comparable between AATD- and non-AATD-related COPD. Surgical reduction of lung volume demonstrated inferior outcomes compared with non-AATD-related emphysema. Conclusion: Intravenous augmentation remains the only disease-specific therapy in AATD and there is evidence that this slows decline in emphysema determined by CT density. There is paucity of data around other treatments in AATD. Treatments for usual COPD may not be as efficacious in AATD, and further studies may be required for this disease group.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1295—1308
JournalInternational journal of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2017


  • Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, Treatment, Emphysema, Lung Transplantation