Walter J. O'Donnell, M.D.

Specialty: Pulmonary Medicine

Massachusetts General Hospital

55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114


The following is a list of recent publications for which this Partners Asthma Center physician has been cited as an author in PubMed databases. Study abstracts have been provided for your convenience.

Kiely, S. C., K. S. Russo, et al. (2003). "The effect of a teaching hospital's financial crisis and reorganization on a group of residents." Acad Med 78(1): 45-53.

PURPOSE: Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was part of a statewide health care system that underwent a financial crisis and operational reorganization between 1998 and 2000. This study assessed internal medicine (IM) residents' perceptions of the effects of AGH's financial crisis on their residencies METHOD: A confidential, program-based questionnaire was distributed to 75 IM residents at AGH in spring 2000 and included questions on demographic information, inpatient and outpatient medical education, and the hospital's financial crisis. Residents were asked to assess the effects of the financial crisis on their residencies, personal experiences, and attitudes toward health care systems. Outcomes included consideration of transfer, recommendation of the program to a medical student, concerns about fellowship opportunities, opinions about large health care systems, and medicine as a career recommendation. RESULTS: A total of 71 residents (95%) responded to the questionnaire. Fifty-five (79%) had experienced effects on their residencies due to the financial crisis, but perceptions differed widely. Eighteen (25%) considered transferring from the program, but 44 of 59 (75%) would have recommended the program to a medical student. Because of the financial crisis, respondents reported significant changes in concerns about fellowship opportunities (p <.001), opinions about large health care systems (p <.001), and opinions about recommending medicine as a career (p <.001). CONCLUSION: This study highlights the fact that residents serve as program ambassadors and their experiences may influence recruitment and retention. Thus, programs should consider ways to assess and address residents' concerns during any system crisis or reorganization.

Silverman, E. K., H. A. Chapman, et al. (1998). "Genetic epidemiology of severe, early-onset chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Risk to relatives for airflow obstruction and chronic bronchitis." Am J Respir Crit Care Med 157(6 Pt 1): 1770-8.

Severe alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency is the only proven genetic risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We have assembled a cohort of 44 probands with severe, early-onset COPD, who do not have severe alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. A surprisingly high prevalence of females (79.6%) was found. Assessment of the risk to relatives of these early-onset COPD probands for airflow obstruction and chronic bronchitis was performed to determine whether significant familial aggregation for COPD, independent of alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, could be demonstrated. First- degree relatives of early-onset COPD probands had significantly lower FEV1 and FEV1/FVC values than control subjects (p < 0.01), despite similar pack-years of smoking. Reduced spirometric values in first-degree relatives of early-onset COPD probands were found only in current or ex-cigarette smokers. The mean FEV1 in current or ex-smoking first-degree relatives was 76.1 +/- 20.9% predicted compared to 89.2 +/- 14.4% predicted in current or ex-smoking control subjects (p < 0.01); in lifelong nonsmokers, the mean FEV1 was 93.4% predicted for both control subjects and first-degree relatives of early-onset COPD probands. Generalized estimating equations, adjusting for age and pack-years of smoking, demonstrated increased odds of reduced FEV1 and chronic bronchitis in current or ex-smoking first-degree relatives of early-onset COPD probands. Using a new method to estimate relative risk from relative odds, we estimate that the relative risks for FEV1 below 60%, FEV1 below 80%, and chronic bronchitis are each approximately three in current or ex-smoking first-degree relatives of early-onset COPD probands. The increased risk to relatives of early-onset COPD probands for reduced FEV1 and chronic bronchitis, limited to current or ex-smokers, suggests genetic risk factor(s) for COPD that are expressed in response to cigarette smoking.

O'Donnell, W. J., W. Pieciak, et al. (1998). "Clearance of Pneumocystis carinii cysts in acute P carinii pneumonia: assessment by serial sputum induction." Chest 114(5): 1264-8.

STUDY OBJECTIVES: To determine the feasibility of repeat sputum induction in acute Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) and to define the rate of clearance of P carinii cysts from the respiratory tract of HIV-seropositive patients with acute PCP. DESIGN: Prospective cohort evaluation. SETTING: University medical center. PARTICIPANTS: Twenty-four HIV-seropositive subjects with acute PCP. MEASUREMENTS: Sputum induction for P carinii 2, 3, 4, and 6 weeks after initial diagnosis, and follow-up for 1 year. RESULTS: Eighty-eight percent of subjects had residual cysts at 2 weeks, 76% at 3 weeks, 29% at 4 weeks, and 24% at 6 weeks postdiagnosis. A prior AIDS-defining illness (p = 0.033) or prior PCP (p = 0.004) predicted relapse within 6 months, but persistent cysts at 3 weeks did not; 8 of 16 sputum-positive subjects and 1 of 5 sputum-negative subjects experienced a relapse within 6 months (p = 0.34). Secondary prophylaxis with trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole was associated with a reduced risk of relapse. CONCLUSIONS: Serial sputum induction coupled with direct fluorescent antibody staining is a feasible, noninvasive method of respiratory tract surveillance for the eradication of P carinii during and after acute PCP. Three-quarters of HIV-seropositive patients with acute PCP have persistent cysts in their lungs at the end of antimicrobial treatment, despite clinical recuperation, but only one quarter have residual cysts 6 weeks postdiagnosis. A prior AIDS-defining illness and prior PCP are positively associated, and subsequent trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole prophylaxis is negatively associated, with relapse within 6 months, while persistent organisms at 3 weeks do not appear to be a significant predictor of relapse risk.

Burgess, K. M., W. J. O'Donnell, et al. (1997). "Employee assistance programs: a worldwide perspective." Behav Healthc Tomorrow 6(4): 69-72.

Once limited to U.S. corporations, employee assistance programs (EAPs) are now spreading around the world. The authors review global EAP trends and identify similarities and differences among EAPs in North America, Europe, Central and South America, the Asia-Pacific region, and the Caribbean. Through affiliations between international professional associations and services to multinational corporations, the EAP field is quietly creating globalized behavioral health services.

Chertow, G. M., J. L. Seifter, et al. (1996). "Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and hypouricemia." Clin Nephrol 46(3): 193-8.

BACKGROUND: Hypouricemia has been reported in a substantial fraction of patients with AIDS and attributed to an HIV-related renal urate transport defect. We tested the alternative hypothesis that hypouricemia was associated with the administration of high-dose trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX). METHODS: Sociodemographic, clinical, and repeated laboratory data on 45 hospitalized patients with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) with and without HIV infection, were abstracted by a blinded reviewer. The primary outcome of interest was the percent change in serum uric acid concentration from baseline to hospital day 5 +/- 1. RESULTS: Subjects who received TMP-SMX were older (mean age 44.8 vs. 37.0, p = 0.02), less likely to be HIV-seropositive (61% vs. 94%, p = 0.01), and more likely to have received glucocorticoid therapy (75% vs. 35%, p = 0.01) than those who received pentamidine, dapsone-trimethoprim, clindamycin-primaquine, sulfadiazine-pyramethamine, or a combination of these agents. The administration of TMP-SMX was associated with a 37% +/- 12% reduction in serum uric acid concentration, adjusting for the effects of age, sex, race, HIV antibody status, renal function, serum sodium, and the use of diuretics and glucocorticoids (p = 0.005). CONCLUSION: Among a diverse cohort of hospitalized patients with PCP, treatment with high-dose TMP-SMX was strongly associated with a reduction in serum uric acid concentration over time.

O'Donnell, W. J. (1995). "Small cell lung cancer. Case report." Chest 107(6 Suppl): 241S-242S.

The selection of appropriate chemotherapeutic and/or radiation therapy for small cell lung cancer should be done after careful diagnosis and staging workup. A patient with small cell lung cancer is presented and explanation given for each step in diagnosis and staging.

Asano, K., C. M. Lilly, et al. (1995). "Diurnal variation of urinary leukotriene E4 and histamine excretion rates in normal subjects and patients with mild-to-moderate asthma." J Allergy Clin Immunol 96(5 Pt 1): 643-51.

BACKGROUND: Leukotriene E4 (LTE4) and histamine excreted into the urine reflect the in vivo synthesis and release of cysteinyl leukotrienes and histamine, respectively. We examined the diurnal variation of the excretion rate of these mediators over 4 consecutive days in normal subjects (n = 5) and patients with stable mild-to-moderate asthma (n = 8). METHODS: Sixteen consecutive 6-hour urine samples were collected over 4 days. Urinary LTE4 concentrations were determined by reverse-phase high-pressure liquid chromatography, followed by ELISA. Urinary histamine concentrations were measured by ELISA. The excretion rates of these compounds were normalized relative to urinary creatinine content. RESULTS: The mean urinary LTE4 excretion rate was 83.8 +/- 38.2 pg/mg creatinine (mean +/- SD) in normal subjects; in patients with asthma, the urinary LTE4 excretion rate (110.0 +/- 59.2 pg/mg creatinine) was significantly higher than that in normal subjects (p < 0.05). The urinary histamine excretion rate was not different between normal subjects (24.0 +/- 12.5 ng/mg creatinine) and patients with asthma (31.5 +/- 25.8 ng/mg creatinine). A robust and systematic within-day variation (p < 0.01), but no day-to-day variation, was observed in histamine excretion rate. Although the magnitude of variation in LTE4 excretion within a day was significantly greater in patients with asthma than in normal subjects (p < 0.05), we could not identify any specific diurnal variation pattern in either the normal or the asthma group. No significant correlation was observed between urinary LTE4 and histamine excretion rate within any subject. CONCLUSIONS: Patients with asthma excrete LTE4 in the urine at a greater rate than normal subjects. Although no systematic variation in urinary LTE4 excretion rates over the course of a day was observed in either normal subjects or patients with stable asthma, the presence of a systematic diurnal variation of urinary histamine excretion exists in both groups.

O'Donnell, W. J. and E. Israel (1994). "Inhaled diuretics in asthma: the search for the mechanism of action." J Asthma 31(2): 79-83.

O'Donnell, W. J., M. Rosenberg, et al. (1992). "Acetazolamide and furosemide attenuate asthma induced by hyperventilation of cold, dry air." Am Rev Respir Dis 146(6): 1518-23.

We investigated the assumption that the efficacy of inhaled diuretics in asthma is dependent upon inhibition of the Na+/K+/2Cl- cotransporter. We compared the protective effect of acetazolamide, a diuretic without significant effect on the loop cotransporter, with the protection provided by inhaled furosemide in a cold, dry air hyperventilation model of asthma. Seven asthmatic subjects underwent a baseline bronchial challenge and then received a nebulized dose of 80 mg of furosemide or 500 mg of acetazolamide or saline placebo in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover design. Repeat challenges were performed immediately and at 2 and 4 h postnebulization. Acetazolamide caused a 47.2% increase in the amount of cold, dry air required to reduce the FEV1, by 20% (expressed in terms of respiratory heat loss as PD20RHL), from 0.79 multiplied or divided by (x/divided by) 1.13 kcal/min (geometric mean x/divided by geometric SEM) at baseline to 1.17 x/divided by 1.09 kcal/min postnebulization (p < 0.025). Furosemide increased the geometric mean PD20RHL by 53.9%, from 0.86 x/divided by 1.12 kcal/min to 1.33 x/divided by 1.12 kcal/min (p < 0.001). There was no significant change after placebo inhalation (0.81 x/divided by 1.15 kcal/min versus 0.87 x/divided by 1.10 kcal/min, NS). Airway responsiveness had returned to baseline by 2 h postnebulization on all 3 days. Furosemide also caused bronchodilatation, producing a 14.1% rise in the mean FEV1 (p < 0.005 versus prenebulization), whereas neither acetazolamide nor placebo altered airway tone significantly.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Seiden, M. V., W. J. O'Donnell, et al. (1990). "Vasculitis with recurrent pulmonary hemorrhage in a long-term survivor after autologous bone marrow transplantation." Bone Marrow Transplant 6(5): 345-7.

We report an unusual vasculitic syndrome in a long-term survivor of autologous bone marrow transplant. Clinical and pathologic studies revealed a cutaneous and pulmonary leukocytoclastic vasculitis complicated by recurrent pulmonary hemorrhage. Serologic studies revealed an elevated anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody titer. The vasculitis has been successfully controlled with prednisone, cyclophosphamide, and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole.