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      Emergency department management of acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: factors predicting readmission

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          Readmissions are common following acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD) and are partially responsible for increased morbidity and mortality in COPD. Numerous factors have been shown to predict readmission of patients previously admitted to hospital for AECOPD; however, factors related to readmission in patients who are triaged in emergency departments (EDs) and sent directly home are poorly understood. We postulate that patients seen in the ED for AECOPD and directly sent home have a high readmission rate, and we suspect that inadequate management and follow-up contribute to this high readmission rate.


          We conducted a 1-year retrospective study of all patients seen in the ED for AECOPD at an inner-city tertiary care hospital; 30- and 90-day readmission rates for COPD and all-cause admissions to the ED and hospital were determined. Patients discharged directly home from the ED were compared with those admitted to hospital for management. Patient, treatment, and system variables that could potentially impact readmission were documented. Multivariate Poisson regression models were used to determine which factors predicted readmissions.


          The readmission rates in the ED group (n=240) were significantly higher than that in the hospitalized group (n=271): 1) the 90-day ED readmissions (1.29 vs 0.51, p<0.0001) and 30-day ED readmissions (0.54 vs 0.20, p<0.0001) (ED vs hospitalized groups) were significantly higher in the ED group; 2) the time to first readmission was significantly shorter in the ED group than in the hospitalized group (24.1±22 vs 31.8±27.8 days; p<0.05). Cardiovascular comorbidities ( p<0.00001), substance abuse disorder ( p<0.001), and mental illness ( p<0.001) were the strongest predictors of readmission in the ED group. Age ( p<0.01), forced expiratory volume in 1 second ( p<0.001), and cardiovascular comorbidities ( p<0.05) were the best predictors for both 30- and 90-day COPD readmission rates in the ED group. Only 50% of the ED group patients received bronchodilators, oral steroids, and antibiotics inclusively, and only 68% were referred for community follow-up. The need for oral steroids to treat AECOPD predicted future 90-day COPD readmissions in the ED group ( p<0.003).


          Patients discharged directly home from EDs have a significantly higher risk of readmission to EDs than those who are hospitalized. One possible reason for this is that COPD management is variable in EDs with <50% receiving appropriate therapy.

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          Most cited references 42

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          Temporal clustering of exacerbations in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

          Exacerbations are important events in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Preventing exacerbations is a key treatment goal. Observational data suggest that after a first exacerbation, patients may be at increased risk of a second exacerbation, but this has not been specifically studied. We hypothesized that exacerbations may cluster together in time, a finding that would have important implications for targeting preventative interventions and the analysis of clinical trial data. To assess whether exacerbations are random events, or cluster in time. A total of 297 patients in the London chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cohort recorded daily symptoms and were assessed for a total of 904 patient-years. The observed timing of second exacerbations after an initial exacerbation was compared with that expected should exacerbations occur randomly. The observed timing distribution of second exacerbations differed significantly (P < 0.001) from the expected exponential function (shape parameter of the fitted Weibull function, 0.966 [95% confidence interval, 0.948-0.985]), suggesting that more second exacerbations occurred sooner than later and that exacerbations cluster together in time. Twenty-seven percent of first exacerbations were followed by a second recurrent event within 8 weeks. Approximately one third of exacerbations were recurrent exacerbations. Although initial exacerbations were milder than isolated events, they were not less likely to receive treatment, and under-treatment of initial events is not a plausible explanation for exacerbation recurrence. Recurrent exacerbations contribute significantly to overall exacerbation frequency (rho = 0.81; P < 0.0001). Exacerbations are not random events but cluster together in time such that there is a high-risk period for recurrent exacerbation in the 8-week period after an initial excerbation.
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            Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease.

            Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an inflammatory disease of the lung associated with progressive airflow limitation and punctuated by episodes of acute exacerbation. There is growing recognition that the inflammatory state associated with COPD is not confined to the lungs but also involves the systemic circulation and can impact nonpulmonary organs. Epidemiologic and mechanistic studies indicate that COPD is associated with a high frequency of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmias, independent of shared risk factors. Possible pathways include complex interrelationships between chronic low-grade systemic inflammation and oxidative stress as well as shared risk factors such as age, cigarette smoking, and environmental pollutants. In this review, we provide an overview of the epidemiologic data linking COPD with cardiovascular disease, comment on the interrelationships among COPD, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease, and highlight diagnostic and therapeutic challenges.
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              Biochemical markers of cardiac dysfunction predict mortality in acute exacerbations of COPD.

              Retrospective studies suggest that plasma levels of N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) and cardiac troponin T are often elevated in patients with acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and are associated with increased mortality. These cardiac biomarkers were investigated in an unselected cohort of patients admitted to hospital with exacerbations of COPD. Consecutive patients with physician-diagnosed COPD exacerbation but without clinical evidence of acute cardiac disease admitted to a public hospital over a 1 year period were studied prospectively. NT-proBNP and troponin T were measured on admission. The primary end point was all-cause mortality at 30 days. Elevated NT-proBNP (>220 pmol/l) was present in 65/244 patients (27.5%) and significantly predicted 30-day mortality (OR 9.0, 95% CI 3.1 to 26.2, p 0.03 μg/l) was found in 40/241 patients (16.6%) and also predicted 30-day mortality (OR 6.3, 95% CI 2.4 to 16.5, p<0.001). These associations persisted after adjusting for other clinical and laboratory predictors of mortality (arterial CO(2) pressure (Paco(2)), body mass index and CURB65 score). NT-proBNP and troponin T levels appeared to have additive associations with mortality: 30-day mortality among patients with abnormalities of both NT-proBNP and troponin T was 15-fold higher than among patients with normal values. Elevated levels of NT-proBNP and troponin T are strong predictors of early mortality among patients admitted to hospital with acute exacerbations of COPD independently of other known prognostic indicators. The pathophysiological basis for this is unknown, but indicates that cardiac involvement in exacerbations of COPD may be an important determinant of prognosis.

                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                23 May 2018
                : 13
                : 1647-1654
                Centre for Heart Lung Innovation, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Stephan F van Eeden, Centre for Heart Lung Innovation, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, 1081 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC V6Z1Y6, Canada, Email stephan.vaneeden@
                © 2018 Bartels et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

                Original Research

                Respiratory medicine

                mental illness, cardiovascular disease, substance abuse, copd, readmissions


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