Bali V, Schelfhout J, Sher MR, Tripathi Peters A, Patel GB, Mayorga M, Goss D, Romano (DeMuro) C. Patient-reported experiences with refractory or unexplained chronic cough: a qualitative analysis. Ther Adv Respir Dis. 2024 Mar 19;18:175346662. doi: 10.1177/17534666241236025

BACKGROUND: Chronic cough, defined as a cough lasting 8 or more weeks, affects up to 10% of adults. Refractory chronic cough (RCC) is a cough that is uncontrolled despite comprehensive investigation and treatment of comorbid conditions while unexplained chronic cough (UCC) is a cough with no identifiable cause despite extensive evaluation of comorbid conditions. RCC and UCC are often poorly controlled. Understanding individuals' lived experience of the symptoms and impacts of these conditions may guide therapeutic strategies.

OBJECTIVES: The primary objectives of this study were to assess respondents' perceptions of the key symptoms of RCC and UCC and the impacts of RCC and UCC and their symptoms on well-being, health-related quality of life, work productivity, and social relationships.

DESIGN: Qualitative study. Methods: This study enrolled 30 adults with physician-diagnosed RCC or UCC. Two trained qualitative researchers conducted individual, in-depth telephone interviews using a semi-structured interview guide. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, coded, and systematically analyzed to identify content themes.

RESULTS: A total of 15 respondents with RCC and 15 with UCC were included in the study. Many respondents had RCC or UCC for a long duration (median 9 years, range: 0-24). Half of the respondents reported having a coughing episode at least once daily. Only 40% of respondents reported that medication had improved their symptoms. In over half of the respondents, RCC or UCC hindered communication, caused embarrassment, frustration, and worry, and lowered quality of life. Perceptions of meaningful treatment benefits in RCC or UCC varied widely across respondents.

CONCLUSION: RCC and UCC remained poorly managed in many individuals and were associated with a wide range of symptoms and cough triggers that hindered daily activities and reduced emotional well-being. Understanding individuals' lived experiences may inform the development of RCC and UCC therapeutic strategies.

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