Imperial College London


Faculty of MedicineNational Heart & Lung Institute

Professor of Respiratory Medicine



+44 (0)20 7351 8029m.polkey




Respiratory MuscRoyal BromptonRoyal Brompton Campus





Professor Polkey qualified from the University of Bristol (1988) and trained in general medicine before specialising in respiratory medicine. He received a PhD (1998) for studies investigating the properties of the diaphragm in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) under the supervision of Professor John Moxham and was appointed as a consultant in respiratory medicine at the Royal Brompton Hospital in 2000. He gave the Linacre lecture of the Royal College of Physicians in 2005 and was the inaugural recipient of the Moran Campbell lectureship of the British Thoracic Society. He received a personal chair from Imperial College in 2007. He was chair of the Science and Research committee of the British Thoracic Society  and organised the winter scientific meeting in 2009 &10.  He is associate editor of the European Respiratory Journal and Clinical Science and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Applied Physiology.

His clinical practice involves the assessment of patients with advanced COPD for rehabilitation, home ventilation and lung volume reduction surgery. He is therefore expert in the clinical assessment of such patients including diverse measures of skeletal muscle strength and bulk.  Clinically he is also expert in the management of sleep disorders including Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and in conditions requiring non-invasive respiratory support especially Motor Neurone Disease. Professor Polkey heads the respiratory muscle laboratory at Brompton which has the capacity to provide detailed assessment of respiratory muscle function including phrenic nerve stimulation and measurement of transdiaphragmatic pressure.

Our major research effort is presently focused on understanding quadriceps weakness in COPD. We were the first to describe how quadriceps muscle function could be non-volitionally assessed in patients with lung disease [1, 2] and showed that amongst patients with moderate to severe disease that this predicts survival better than indices of lung function [3], and that weakness is highly prevalent even in patients with apparently early disease [4].  We are presently engaged in studies aimed at understanding the molecular basis for quadriceps weakness with academic and industrial partners and to this end have established an active biopsy program. A particular strength of our group is that we have access to diverse clinical models including patients with non-respiratory lung disease (e.g. chest wall disorder), diaphragm biopsies [4], patients with acute exacerbation (collaboration with Dr Hopkinson and the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital) and rehabilitation (including a recent clinician scientist award to Dr Man).  We also pioneered novel techniques of non-surgical lung volume reduction using valves [5] and transthoracic pneumonostomy [6].


  1. Polkey MI, Kyroussis D, Hamnegard C-H, Mills GH, Green M, Moxham J. Quadriceps strength and fatigue assessed by magnetic stimulation of the femoral nerve in man. Muscle Nerve 1996: 19: 549-555.
  2. Swallow EB, Gosker HR, Ward KA, Moore AJ, Dayer MJ, Hopkinson NS, Schols AM, Moxham J, Polkey MI. A novel technique for nonvolitional assessment of quadriceps muscle endurance in humans. J Appl Physiol 2007: 103(3): 739-746.
  3. Swallow EB, Reyes D, Hopkinson NS, Man WD, Porcher R, Cetti EJ, Moore AJ, Moxham J, Polkey MI. Quadriceps strength predicts mortality in patients with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Thorax 2007: 62(2): 115-120.
  4. Seymour JM, Spruit MA, Hopkinson NS, Natanek SA, Man WD, Jackson A, Gosker HR, Schols AM, Moxham J, Polkey MI, Wouters EF. The prevalence of quadriceps weakness in COPD and the relationship with disease severity. Eur Respir J 2010: 36(1): 81-88.
  5. Hopkinson NS, Toma TP, Hansell DM, Goldstraw P, Moxham J, Geddes DM, Polkey MI. Effect of bronchoscopic lung volume reduction on dynamic hyperinflation and exercise in emphysema. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2005: 171(5): 453-460.
  6. Moore AJ, Cetti E, Haj-Yahia S, Carby M, Bjorling G, Karlsson S, Shah P, Goldstraw P, Moxham J, Jordan S, Polkey MI. Unilateral extrapulmonary airway bypass in advanced emphysema. Ann Thorac Surg 2010: 89(3): 899-906, 906 e891-892.




Mohan D, Rossiter H, Watz H, et al., 2023, Selective androgen receptor modulation for muscle weakness in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a randomised control trial, Thorax, Vol:78, ISSN:0040-6376, Pages:258-266

Buttery S, Philip K, Williams P, et al., 2021, Patient symptoms and experience following COVID-19: results from a UK-wide survey, Bmj Open Respiratory Research, Vol:8, ISSN:2052-4439

Mebrate Y, Phillips S, Field D, et al., 2020, Modification of a domiciliary ventilator to increase FiO2; an off label modification which may be of value in COVID-19, Thorax, Vol:76, ISSN:0040-6376, Pages:83-85

Kwan HY, Maddocks M, Nolan CM, et al., 2019, The prognostic significance of weight loss in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease-related cachexia: a prospective cohort study., Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, Vol:10, ISSN:2190-6009, Pages:1330-1338

Boutou AK, Raste Y, Demeyer H, et al., 2019, Progression of physical inactivity in COPD patients: the effect of time and climate conditions – a multicentre prospective cohort study, International Journal of Copd, Vol:14, ISSN:1176-9106, Pages:1979-1992

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